Ex-AASD board president denies closed vote

The former president of the Altoona Area school board said an alleged pay raise for a district administrative staff member was discussed but not finalized or voted upon during an executive session in 2010.

Jim Walstrom, then board president, also said Friday that the figure in question was $2,000 to raise another employee’s salary to a level equal to or above subordinates.

It was only discussed, not passed, in executive session to see if “everyone was OK with it,” Walstrom said.

Walstrom called the Mirror to clarify comments concerning a raise allegedly awarded to the confidential secretary of Superintendent Dennis Murray.

Current board President Ryan Beers said at Tuesday night’s board meeting that he wants answers for why and how salary increases – one for $10,000, he said – were given to at least seven school administrative staff members without board approval.

Walstrom said the raise was not voted on during a public meeting following that night’s executive session. But it was the responsibility of the administration to include it in an agenda to be decided during a subsequent public meeting, he said.

He said he is not sure whether the administration included the raise in a subsequent public board meeting agenda for official approval.

“If it was not voted on publicly, then it was an oversight,” Walstrom said. “As far as something done illegally, I won’t have my reputation tarnished over something like this.”

The Pennsylvania Auditor General’s Office is doing an audit of the district, and district solicitor David Andrews said he is reviewing documents on the matter.

According to the Sunshine Law, all school district salaries and pay changes are subject to school board approval and votes must be taken in public.

Walstrom said the only reason he remembered the executive session discussion is because the Mirror gave him enough details from an interview with Murray that, “I knew what it was.”

“We were meeting twice a month,” Walstrom said. “You are not going to remember things that happen two years ago. “Whether it did or did not show up on the agenda for the public meeting, I can’t recall that.”

Past board member Margaret “Ticky” Hendricks could place only one increase that Beers referred to and said she remembers it “vividly.”

Murray did not attend Tuesday night’s meeting because he was scheduled to undergo shoulder surgery later in the week.

Mirror staff writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.