Missing funds raise suspicion at C-K

CLAYSBURG – Decked out in Bulldogs basketball gear Wednesday night, Claysburg-Kimmel School Board President Jeff Dugan handed each member of the boys’ basketball team a certificate of appreciation for a season well done.

Not mentioned was Josh Klausman, the coach who led the team this year to their first winning season in four decades. Klausman, whose unexpected resignation the board approved Wednesday, is now caught up in accusations of missing booster club money and a mysterious district investigation.

“It’s all speculation,” Klausman, a former district athletic director, said in a phone interview after the meeting. Asked if there was any truth to the rumors, he said: “Absolutely not.”

Superintendent Royce Boyd and school board members spoke only vaguely on the issue, citing restrictions on public comment regarding personnel matters. But parents and a basketball player were more vocal Wednesday, calling on the board to address rumors of financial impropriety and calling for an audit of the now-dissolved booster club’s finances.

“We had some funds that were raised. My question is: Why didn’t they get to the kids?” Rich Gergely, father of player Brandon Gergely, asked the board.

While Boyd and the board refused to offer specific dates and amounts, they acknowledged that the booster club had at some point owed an unpaid bill for team equipment. Klausman has since paid the bill himself, they said.

“We can and will and have done an internal investigation,” Boyd said after the meeting, refusing to say when the investigation began or how long the district knew of the supposed missing funds. Police have not been involved, she said, and thanks to a lack of financial records, it’s not even certain money was missing.

“How come all the other teams got sweatshirts and warm-ups, and we didn’t get anything?” sophomore player Luke Eberhart asked to a round of applause.

Klausman offered a more mundane reason for the nonpayment for the team gear: He bought equipment from Lasser’s Shoe Fly in Altoona during the 2012-2013 season, but didn’t make the payment until this season, he said.

The team boosters didn’t raise enough money to buy a fresh round of sweatshirts and warm-up jackets this year, he said, which explains the lack of recent purchases.

Klausman operated essentially as the sole caretaker of the booster fund, Boyd said, so remaining money has since been merged into a student activity fund as the district awaits a new coach and new booster club heads.

Boyd said the district has a relatively vague policy regarding booster funds -one no club has followed for years. The board will review a proposed new policy, with oversight requirements and two leaders for each club, next month, Solicitor Brendan Moran and board members noted.

“The bottom line is, it’s internal, it’s personal,” Boyd said. “Was money stolen? We can’t say for certain. There’s no record.”

Some of the dozens in the crowd disagreed, demanding specific answers on the supposedly vanished money.

The crowd applauded further when three board members voted against accepting Klausman’s resignation, a vote that ended with a 5-3 approval.

An hour after the meeting, Klausman said he wasn’t aware his resignation would be discussed Wednesday – he wished someone had told him in advance, so he could speak on his own behalf, he said. While rumors suggest he left in the wake of the district investigation, Klausman said he decided to leave the job as he and his wife began raising a child.

“This [the allegations] certainly had nothing to do with it,” he said.

Before and after the meeting, some on the board said they wanted to see the issue – and the board’s prior knowledge – looked into further.

“I’m proud of our young kids. I can’t talk about it,” member Joe Musselman said. “I say this: I wish I could.”

Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.