Solicitor updates Murray probe

Altoona Area school board President Ryan Beers said a closed door executive session was scheduled for Monday evening so the board could be briefed on the status of its investigation of administrative salary increases that apparently took effect without board approval.

“We will know much more as it pertains to the investigation [today],” he said. “But I don’t expect a decision from the board in terms of any action that may be taken.”

The board has a regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. today in the William P. Kimmel board room in the high school. It isn’t clear whether results from Solicitor Dave Andrews’ investigation will be discussed.

In January, the board launched an investigation into at least six administrative salary increases amounting to tens of thousands of dollars that seemed to have been given through the superintendent’s office.

Andrews, who is conducting the investigation, said an interview with Superintendent Dennis Murray was central to completing his investigation, which commenced in January. Andrews said he was scheduled late last week to interview Murray, who has been recovering from shoulder surgery since the time the investigation started.

Andrews did not return a message on Monday for more information concerning the interview.

Murray retained the services of Pittsburgh attorney Efrem Grail, who has maintained Murray’s innocence and demanded the district pay Murray’s legal fees.

Grail did not return a call regarding the cost of Murray’s legal representation, but Murray’s contract provides that the board assume responsibility for payment of costs incurred by him in his defense only if the board finds him innocent after conducting a specific procedure outlined in Public School Code section 1122.

According to Murray’s contract, for the district to be liable for his legal costs, the school board must seek Murray’s dismissal and furnish him with a detailed written statement of charges upon which his proposed dismissal is based.

Then, under school code, the board must conduct a hearing, where Murray would be given an opportunity to be heard either in person or by counsel, or both. Following a hearing, a two-thirds majority vote would be required for Murray’s dismissal, according to Andrews.

“No discussions have taken place regarding action that could be taken because we haven’t met with Attorney Andrews yet,” Beers said. “We will have a better idea of where things stand later this week.”

“Any action the board takes will be based off of [Andrews’] investigation that is being conducted on behalf of the district,” he said.

Meanwhile, an audit of the district by the Auditor General that has been in progress parallel to Andrews’ investigation is apparently ongoing.

“The audit is still in progress, and there is no time frame for when the audit will be done,” Barry Ciccocioppo, Auditor General communications director and press secretary, said last week.

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