Lawyer: Murray’s raises within board limits
The Philadelphia law firm hired by the Altoona Area school board to investigate pay raises given without board approval erred in its calculation of raises that Altoona Area Superintendent Dennis Murray gave himself.
Murray’s total salary over the last 20 years was about $7,000 less than the minimum salary he could have been paid based on his contracts, the board’s solicitor said Monday.
Murray is retiring June 30 after 29 years as superintendent. His current salary is $182,607.
A statement read by attorney Carl Beard of the district’s law firm of Andrews and Beard blamed the formulas in an electronic spreadsheet for the wrong information, stating in some cases the formulas reflected the raise based on Murray’s salary from two years earlier rather than the previous year.
Levin Legal Group attorney Paul Cianci disclosed investigation findings June 5. Cianci’s report concluded that Murray provided raises for himself and 11 employees.
The school board maintains that Murray gave himself “numerous” pay increases that were not determined or approved by the board, its statement said.
At the end of the board’s meeting on Monday, attorney Beard read a statement correcting the findings given by Cianci.
The statement read:
“As the public may recall earlier this month, the board’s counsel delivered to the public its findings and its investigation in matters related to payment of compensation to certain district employees.
“Findings included an analysis of raises Dr. Murray received over the years that were neither determined nor approved by the board. In connection with this analysis, the counsel from out of town stated from the period of 1994 to the present Dr. Murray received pay increases and the total percent of increases during the years where Dr. Murray received pay increases in excess of the minimum possible increases was 24.3 percent. The total percentage increases that either met or failed to exceed minimum increase was 11.2 percent.
“We make this public statement today because the figures used in the above analysis were not correct and the record needs to be corrected.
“Because of an error in electronic spreadsheet formulas and documents given to counsel [by the administration] the percentage of increases in Dr. Murray’s salary for certain years appeared higher than they actually were.
“In certain spreadsheet calculations when an annual pay increase percentage was calculated for a certain year, the increase was based on salary paid to Dr. Murray for two years prior instead of providing the immediately preceding year.
“This created the appearance that Dr. Murray’s salary increase percentages were higher than actual.
“Counsel’s new findings, based upon corrected salary information, confirm that there were individual years where Dr. Murray received raises that were not determined by the board that exceeded minimum raises allowable under his contracts and there were individual years where Dr. Murray received raises that were not determined by the board that either matched or were less than minimum raises allowable under his contacts.
“But over the course of Dr. Murray’s last 20 years as superintendent, he received a total salary that was about $7,000 less than the minimum salary he could have been paid under his contracts.
“Accordingly, it does not appear to the board, based on the information currently available to it, that Dr. Murray received a total amount of salary increases over the years that exceeded the total minimum salary increases allowable under the contracts.
“To be clear, these corrections have no bearing whatsoever on the findings made by the board’s counsel that raises were given by Murray to himself and others without board approval. In fact, the board reiterates that it appears Murray received numerous pay increases that were not determined or approved by the board.
“The correction stated above relates solely to the prior public statements made by the board that contained information indicating that Dr. Murray may have received salary increases without board approval and those raises exceeded minimum raises permitted under his contracts. While it appears to be true that in certain years Dr. Murray’s non-board-approved raises exceeded the minimum raises permitted under his contract, a fact that this board is unhappy to acknowledge, it appears to the board that over the last 20 years of Murray’s tenure as superintendent, the raises Dr. Murray received did not exceed the minimum raises permitted under his contracts.”
Board President Ryan Beers was absent from Monday’s meeting because of a prior commitment, but Beard read a statement from him that he agreed with the board’s statement and wanted to make the correction as soon as possible rather than waiting until July.