The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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April 27, 2013

MIU IV chief resigns over card use

GROVE CITY — The alleged misuse of a credit card has prompted a police investigation and the resignation this week of the executive director of Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV.

The educational resource agency’s solicitor said he has turned over records to law enforcement related to a work-issued credit card that was used by Cecelia H. Yauger.

Yauger, who was executive director of the intermediate unit that oversees 27 school districts, resigned Wednesday after an internal investigation into her use of the American Express credit card.

Grove City lawyer Tim McNickle, who serves as MIU IV’s solicitor, said credit card statements showed purchases from retail stores and expenses from restaurants and other charges including some travel that allegedly were personal expenses and not intermediate unit business. He said the charges occurred from 2007 to the present, with more of such charges in recent years.

He would not put a dollar figure on the questionable charges. Rather, he has initiated an audit of the funds to determine that, he said.

“We’re not going to speculate on the amount. We won’t give it out until we have the audit,” he said.

The audit and the amount will be made publicly available, he said, adding, “We’re not going to hide that number.”

McNickle said he anticipates the audit being completed by the board’s next public meeting, which is at 7 p.m. May 22 at the intermediate unit office in Grove City.

He said that the credit card Yauger used is apparently the only one issued by the intermediate unit with questionable charges.

According to a statement issued by the intermediate unit on Thursday, the issue came to light when a Pittsburgh law firm submitted a right-to-know request to the unit on March 4 for specific records relating to the use of Intermediate Unit IV credit cards by Intermediate Unit employees from 2007 to the present.

Since September 2007, Yauger possessed and had use of an intermediate unit American Express credit card. A review of the documents for her use of the card showed a pattern of recurring and regular charges of a highly questionable nature, the statement said.

At its public meeting last month, the unit’s board of directors directed McNickle to investigate the matter with the understanding that he would report back to the members.

McNickle said Thursday that based on the results, Yauger resigned as part of a written, signed agreement, in which she agreed to make full restitution of the amount that the board determines she owes. The board approved the agreement in a 10-1-1 vote Wednesday night.

Member Karen Humphrey, a New Castle Area School Board member who is Yauger’s sister-in-law, abstained from voting. J. Dayle Ferguson, who represents the Mars Area School District, voted against the agreement. Other media reports said Ferguson favored firing Yauger instead.

McNickle said Yauger expressed her deep regret to the board.

The intermediate unit’s statement indicates the matter will be reported to a law enforcement agency.

McNickle said he called Grove City police Thursday, adding it will be up to the police and the district attorney whether they will prosecute.

The board, meanwhile, is launching a search for a new executive director and has appointed Angelo Pezzuolo to the position in an interim capacity. Pezzuolo retired in 2007 as executive director of the intermediate unit.

In its statement, the board said it “intends to provide a full explanation of the facts and circumstances.”

Intermediate Unit IV serves Mercer, Lawrence and Butler counties. In addition to providing special education services to students in those districts, it also assists districts through contracts, bulk purchasing at lower rates, and in implementing state-mandated education programs.

The services it provides include free assistance to school districts in searches for candidates for administrative vacancies, by screening applications and assisting in the hiring process and helping to certify four-year degree candidates as emergency substitute teachers.

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