AASD probe results coming

The public will learn Wednesday the results of an investigation into administrative staff pay raises at Altoona Area School District, board President Ryan Beers said.

The pay raise issue will be addressed at the board’s meeting, which starts at 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday in the Junior High School Auditorium.

During a Jan. 22 meeting, Beers told fellow board members that he was unable to find board approval for some raises that appear to have exceeded contracted amounts for several administrative staff members dating back to 2007.

Under the state Sunshine Law, all raises must be approved at public board meetings.

District Solicitor Dave Andrews began an investigation, but the board later hired Levin Legal Group Professional Corp. of Philadelphia to complete the report.

The investigation was to determine if compensation was improperly paid, and if so, the board wants to assess the protocols and controls in place, obtain recommendations on new ones and receive legal opinions for recovery of improperly paid compensation.

Murray, who has been on medical or administrative leave for the last five months, retained an attorney in February and has said that he wants “vindication – or at least to get my story out.”

The longtime superintendent is being represented by Pittsburgh attorney Efrem Grail of Reed Smith LLP.

Reed Smith has defended Murray’s role in negotiating employee pay raises with the school board in closed-door executive sessions.

“Dr. Murray’s prudent action in making recommendations to and receiving approval from the Board in executive session on instances of unfair pay disparities likely saved the School District from numerous costly lawsuits based on gender and age discrimination,” a March statement released by his attorneys in March read.

“Dr. Murray did nothing wrong, gained no benefit from any of these increases, and is not responsible for what appears in the board minutes.”

Murray has not lost the respect of the community. He is scheduled as the feature speaker for the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Breakfast Club June 13. And days after he was placed on leave, Logan Township supervisors honored Murray, a township resident, for 29 years of service as the district’s superintendent and six years as an assistant superintendent.

Murray is retiring June 30, a decision he made last August.

The Pennsylvania Auditor General’s Office has added the pay raise issue to its routine audit of the district. The department audits all of the state’s school districts on a rotating basis for violations and efficiency problems.

The department’s findings regarding the pay raises will be included in the district’s audit report, said Auditor General spokesman Barry Ciccocioppo, but he could not say when that report would be issued.

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.