WEST SALEM TOWNSHIP —
“Accountability and responsibility for one’s actions are part of the mantra of what makes the Keystone programs including the Keystone Charter School the success they are today,” James Gentile, founder of the school, said Thursday.
Gentile accepted his responsibility for an ethics violation by agreeing to pay a $6,000 penalty plus $1,000 to cover some of the costs of the investigation.
In a 30-page adjudication report, the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission said Gentile violated the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act when he used his position as a member of the board of the Keystone Education Center to participate in discussions concerning rental and lease payments of buildings used by the school and owned by Gentile and members of his immediate family, working under the corporate name Gentile Enterprises Inc. of Gentile Enterprises LLC, and signed leases for classroom space from Gentile Enterprises as president of the charter school board and the affiliated Keystone Adolescent Center.
Gentile has stressed that the state Department of Education approved the formation of the charter school with the same lease arrangements, but said Thursday that the ethics commission and the state Auditor General, who also has been critical of the arrangement, are independent of the education department.
Gentile resigned as a member of the school board in 2010, shortly after the Auditor General’s Office first pointed out a possible conflict of interest, he said.
He acknowledged that he should not have voted on leases and rent payments as a member of the school board.
“It is a violation because I sat there,” he said. “At the same time, it was approved by the Department Education.”
“(A)t no time did James Gentile intend to create a charter school or place himself on the board for the purposes of gaining some financial benefit through a lease arrangement between the school and Gentile Enterprises,” he said.
Gentile said he was never a controlling force on the school board. The board initially was composed of himself and the superintendents of the Greenville and Reynolds school districts.
“They could always outvote me,” he said.
The board later was expanded to five members.
Gentile said he cooperated fully with the ethics commission.
“I gave them everything I had,” he said. “I have nothing to hide.”
He said he agreed to the penalty because of the power of the commission.
“They can do anything to you,” he said. “They could fine you anything. They could put you out of business.”
Keystone Adolescent Center was created in 1993, and the Keystone Charter School opened its doors in 1997, the first charter school to do so in Pennsylvania.
Gentile Enterprises owns the former West Salem Elementary School, which it bought from Reynolds, at 425 S. Good Hope Road, and the former Marion Restaurant, 270 Sharon Road, also in West Salem.
The school pays Gentile Enterprises about $20,000 a month for the buildings, and Gentile said the lease amounts have only changed once, due to an expansion of one of the buildings.
Gentile Enterprises has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in improvements to the buildings, including $180,000 for improved sewage treatment and $50,000 for a parking lot upgrade.
“It is extremely critical to understand why it was necessary to create the rental relationship between the school and Gentile Enterprises,” Gentile said. “Act 22, the Charter School enabling legislation, did not allow charter schools to use public funds to acquire real estate. Consequently, if the school was going to exist, it had to rent a facility.”
Gentile Enterprises pays real estate taxes on its buildings, unlike public schools, he said.
Violation costs Gentile $7,000
WEST SALEM TOWNSHIP —
- Local News
Grant available to boost security in district courts
County officials are looking to quickly upgrade security systems in the five district judge offices, not due to an increase in risk, but because current systems are antiquated and there is a short window to apply for some financial help with the costs.
Officials split over selling older monitors
What to do with a pile of older LCD computer monitors, keyboards and mice remains up in the air until the third, and often absent, county commissioner makes a decision.
Police anxious to talk with victim
Sharon police want to talk to a West Hill man about several other men who came to his house shortly before he was shot and critically wounded Tuesday.
The Lackawannock-Shenango-West Middlesex Pool has some pretty obvious changes from when it was opened almost 46 years ago.
Sharon man 'stable' after being shot in his West Hill home
A Sharon man was in stable condition this morning after being shot by one of several men he had let into his West Hill home, police said.
GJR killer not eligible for parole, court rules
State Superior Court on Tuesday reversed a local judge’s decision that the sentence for one of two men who killed a night supervisor at George Junior Republic, Pine Township, was unconstitutional.
Duplicated files, former worker confesses
A Mercer woman accused of stealing customer lists, billing information and other data from her former employer headed off trial Monday by pleading guilty to a charge of unlawful duplication.
Vandals vent their emotions
Vandals kept police busy Sunday and Monday nights at a home in Greenville where the Mercer County District Attorney’s office said a boy was starved and beaten by his mom.
Couple, another man charged in thefts
Pennsylvania State Police have filed charges of burglary, theft, receiving stolen property and criminal mischief against an East Palestine, Ohio, couple and another man in connection with two robberies in rural Mercer County.
Where’s the beef? Bull’s still missing
Is it possible that an alien abduction took place in the Mercer area last week? A solid red, 2-year-old Watusi bull with 3-foot-long horns has been missing since July 14 with no trace of its existence left on earth.
Buhl Day honorees
The Buhl Day committee has chosen for this year’s celebration five honored guests whose volunteer work they feel best showcases the legacy of philanthropic work left behind by Frank and Julia Buhl a century ago.
GC pair not hurt in accident injuring 2
Two drivers were taken to a hospital after an accident at the intersection of state routes 965 and 173 in Worth Township, police said.
Sharon’s WaterFire wasn’t lacking either of its elements on Saturday. There was steady, day-long rain but the day concluded with the Shenango River ablaze.
‘Starved’ boy released from hospital
A 7-year-old boy allegedly starved and beaten by his mother is out of the hospital and ordered out of his Greenville home by Mercer County Common Pleas President Judge Thomas R. Dobson.
A group of more 50 people walked between the raindrops Saturday during an historical tour of downtown Sharon during the city’s WaterFire celebration.
- More Local News Headlines
- Grant available to boost security in district courts