The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

March 19, 2013

Lease payments questioned in audit

WEST SALEM TOWNSHIP — The state Auditor General’s Office said in a performance audit that Keystone Education Center in West Salem Township may have improperly received $85,375 in lease reimbursements from the state.

Jim Gentile, founder of the charter school, called the accusation “legally incorrect” and “materially misguided.”

“We followed all the guidelines that the Department of Education had,” he said. “That’s why we got the money. We never would have applied for it, if we felt we weren’t eligible to receive it.”

Department of Education Press Secretary Tim Eller said the department will review the audit to determine if any actions are warranted.

“When the auditor general makes recommendations that public school entities refund monies to the commonwealth, the department carefully examines those recommendations to determine the legal basis for the recommendations and proceed accordingly.”

The audit covering July 1, 2008, to June 20, 2010, said the problem arises from the overlap in personnel of the school and the for-profit corporation that owns the building in West Salem Township, Gentile Enterprises Inc.

As an example, Gentile is the founder of the school and was an officer of the school and the landlord corporation at the time of the audit.

Gentile resigned from the school board in 2010.

The school’s director of finance also has a role with the landlord, the audit said. Such an arrangement creates the “reasonable likelihood” that charter school and landlord officials could reap “direct or indirect financial benefits,” the audit said.

“Properties owned by a charter school are not eligible to receive state lease reimbursement,” the audit said.

The audit, dated March 7, said the “circular leasing arrangement” among related parties means the school “was essentially leasing to itself.”

The school on Monday issued a news release saying the audit’s finding “would suggest” the auditor’s office and the education department officials “were both inept and dilatory in their duties.”

“It has always been the Department of Education that has reviewed and approved all documents submitted by Keystone Charter School, including the leases, for approval of the rent reimbursement,” the release said.

When the school was founded in 1997 – the first charter school to open in Pennsylvania – state officials were involved in setting up the school and approving its charter and the arrangement between the owners of the building and the school, the release said.

“It was disclosed and made very apparent that the owners of the building were the same individuals who were instrumental in forming the public school,” the release said.

The release goes on to praise the “Herculean efforts” of Keystone administration and staff, county agencies and the Greenville and Reynolds school districts, and the successes of Keystone students, many of whom have become professionals and tradesmen or served in the armed forces.

In what is called an “observation,” the audit said there were several ethics violations related to the Gentile family members’ positions with the school and the affiliated Keystone Adolescent Center, which shares a building with the school, and the fact that the school buys meals from one of the school districts when a district superintendent is on the charter school board.

Keystone waived the opportunity to respond to the allegation because of an ongoing ethics investigation.

According to the audit, the state Ethics Commission has completed its investigation and a final decision will be publicly released.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Woman nabbed, sister sought in assault

    Southwest Mercer County Regional police have arrested a Hermitage woman for breaking into a home in Farrell and beating a woman and are seeking the alleged assailant’s sister.

    April 16, 2014

  • Despite good deeds, man going back to prison

    Linda K. Kretzer had nothing but praise for Raymond C. McKelvey.

    April 16, 2014

  • 15-year-old legal battle returning to county court

    State Supreme Court has let stand a Superior Court decision sending a landmark medical malpractice case back to Mercer County Common Pleas Court.

    April 16, 2014

  • Southwest mulls how to adopt study points

    Even though some members of the Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Department had little respect for a study of the department completed by a consultant, Chief Riley Smoot Jr. pledged to implement as many of the study’s recommendations as he could.

    April 16, 2014

  • Beader plans to resign, just not yet

    Democratic Mercer County Commissioner Brian Beader acknowledges that he intends to resign, but said nothing will happen until after he meets privately with the county’s judges next Thursday.

    April 16, 2014

  • Wildlife fund for park Aiding Buhl Farm animals

    Some of Steven Jubelirer’s fondest memories of his mother, Natalie, was when they would walk together in Buhl Farm park, Hermitage.

    April 16, 2014 3 Photos

  • News briefs from April 15, 2014

    Man charged with attack on his wife in Walmart

    Woman arrested for stabbing man with knife

    3 injured in pickup-motorcycle crash

    April 15, 2014

  • Judge orders Marin removed from ballot

    Saying the testimony of Congressional candidate Mel Marin of Sharon wasn’t credible, the Commonwealth Court has ordered Marin’s name removed from the Democratic Party’s ballot for one of area’s congressional seats in the May primary because Marin now has less than the required 1,000 valid signatures.

    April 15, 2014

  • Fire ruled accident, but cause unknown

    The fire in Greenville-Reynolds Industrial Park was most likely started by workers who were gutting the building, according to a deputy fire marshal.

    April 15, 2014

  • Mertz Tower fire Mertz tenant charged with arson

    A tenant who was being evicted from her apartment because of bizarre behavior is accused of setting her sofa ablaze at Wade D. Mertz Towers in Sharpsville.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tickled reflexology and pedicure salon Crafting a new downtown

    We’ll know better five years from now what lasting impact public interest in the arts and boutique shopping had in efforts to revitalize downtown Sharon with small businesses.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Have van, need drivers to serve elderly

    April 14, 2014

  • Jim Raykie column photo Technology aside, constant has been serving community

    Wow ... I was thinking about The Herald’s 150th birthday during the weekend, and realized that I’m getting old – I’ve been here for more than a quarter of that century and a half.

     

     

     

     

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • The Herald, 1941 Herald marks 150th year

    The Herald today, April 14, celebrates 150 years of serving area readers and advertisers.

    April 14, 2014 2 Photos

  • Attorneys preparing work for murder trial

    Emerging from his chambers after about two hours of meeting with attorneys in Ralph L. Young’s murder case, Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher J. St. John thanked spectators for their patience in waiting for the public portion of the hearing.

    April 13, 2014

Featured Ads
AP Video
Sharonheraldnewspaper Facebook Page