Murray: Revise audit

Former Altoona Area Superintendent Dennis Murray’s attorneys are demanding the Department of the Auditor General amend its report of the school district’s pay raise issue or they will seek the launch of a criminal investigation into whether acts of governmental obstruction have been committed.

Reed Smith attorney Gene Connors in Pittsburgh sent a letter to attorney Victoria Madden of the Auditor General’s Office, referencing the Mirror’s Aug. 4 article “Ex-investigator says report changed” and demanded the department amend the report to include information gathered by the Office of Special Investigations. Madden had previously stated any possible findings from the OSI were not incorporated in the final audit report because the OSI’s role was to investigate criminal wrongdoing and the Altoona Area violations of school code are not criminal.

Connors also demanded the department correct what he had previously claimed was the audit’s “essential and most obvious flaw”- the department’s application of school code violations to Murray that Connors maintains should have been applied to the board.

The published audit report on the salary raises drew no conclusions as to whether Murray discussed the raises with the board prior to implementing them or whether personnel documentation was filled out correctly for administrative employees, but the report pins school code violations on Murray.

However, a former investigator of the now disbanded OSI, who finished a report that he believed to be final, said Murray was not wrong for giving the raises. Rather, he said school code violations applied to the board members who are responsible for making actions in public meetings and recording those votes in meeting minutes.

In addition to amending the report, Connors is demanding the auditor general address “any undue influence on the AGO from local and state officials, as well as any improper conduct by the AASD and its advisors.”

Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-Blair, met with staff of the auditor general to discuss the audit, email correspondence shows, after a June 6 Mirror article quoted Murray as saying he spoke with the former OSI investigator. Eichelberger later appeared with Auditor General Eugene DePasquale during his visit to Altoona to issue the final audit report that contradicted information that had been given to Murray.

Eichelberger has denied any involvement in the outcome of the final report. He said the school board requested that he act as a liaison with the Auditor General’s Office to gain updates on the report and to spur the auditor general not to delay. He said it was a typical responsibility he performs for many groups in his legislative district who ask for help with state agencies.

“Your failure to correct these wrongs by August 15, 2013, will leave us with no choice but to report this matter to the proper criminal authorities charged with investigating governmental obstruction,” Connors’ letter to Madden states.

Staff of the auditor general had few words in response to Connors’ letter.

“We stand by our audit,” auditor general spokeswoman Susan Woods said. “It is a free country; they can do what they want.”

The published report states the department’s conclusion that it was Murray’s failure to obtain board approval for the raises of five employees at a public meeting was corroborated by the district’s internal investigation conducted by Levin Legal Group attorney Paul Cianci, who found Murray had given raises to more than 10 employees.

Asked whether the department would release the OSI report that was not included in the final report, Woods repeated:

“The audit stands as it is.”