Greece to discuss audit again
May 3, 2008
Greece, N.Y. -
The Greece Board of Education may look into whether it can end the controversial health-care benefits Greece Central is paying former Superintendent Steve Walts.
The board will have a discussion about the issue at its Tuesday board meeting at Apollo Middle School, 750 Maiden Lane. The board will hold a public hearing on the proposed $194,075,636 budget at 6:30 p.m. May 5.
After that, it will hold a study session on a recently released State Comptroller's audit, which found former Greece board members and administrators mismanaged money during Walts' tenure. There won't be any public comment but there will be board discussion, said board President Roger Boily.
The district held an audit forum about a week ago, which drew about 50 residents, administrators and staff.
Since then, "a number of board members suggested maybe we have a special meeting/study session to discuss the audit and come up with some ideas to look at where we go next," Boily said.
That includes looking at any recourse the district may have in changing or ending Walts' health benefits, which the district is continuing to pay, despite the fact that Walts now heads Prince William County Schools.
A 2004 deal by Walts and former Board of Education members included Greece Central funding his health care, even if he stopped working in the district. The agreement, brokered when Walts was 50, says Greece would pay 80 percent of a health insurance plan chosen by Walts from a selection Greece offered. If he retired or became disabled, Walts could continue the coverage, with the district footing the entire bill.
Walts' short-lived successor, Meg Keller-Cogan, had a similar clause. The district paid 90 percent of her coverage and agreed to pay 90 percent if she retired.
The sticking point, for some, though, is a clause in Walts' contract that says "... the Superintendent shall be deemed to have retired from his employment if he has completed at least 5 years of service as Superintendent of the District and there shall have been no finding of guilt on charges brought against the district."
The end of that clause could offer a chance end Walts' benefits. When he left Greece in 2005, he was considered retired, and the benefits kicked in. In 2006, then-board President Ken Walsh said Walts' coverage cost Greece little over $1,000 a month but the district would not confirm that, citing privacy reasons. Board member Joe Moscato estimated a few months ago that Greece could save close to $6 million over the next 30 years if it ends Walts' coverage.
Moscato made a motion to end the benefits in February, days after a preliminary audit was leaked, but other board members did not support it.
Boily said the best approach, for now, is to have the district's attorneys "take a look at the audit and its implications as far as what we can do as a board to look at the former superintendent's benefits and any other issues that may be oustanding: who got buyouts when they left the district and what we can, as a board, do about that," Boily said.
"But it will be left to the attorneys to do that," he added. "This is not something that the board says we have to cut off benefits or do anything of that nature. We need to have a legal opininion, based on the audit, where do we go from here?"
Some critics have suggested the district and board should pursure criminal charges against Walts and past administrators. But the board "has no indication whatsoever" that the Monroe County District Attorney's office will do so, Boily said.
More often, though, Boily said he fields questions about Walts' benefits.
"And my answer is, 'I never would have voted for something like that.'"
It is unfortunate to think that those who are perpetually blind to the truth are the very same people who call the shots. I hope someone in the Annex is paying attention to this.