Exclusive Interview: PA Auditor General Finds Conflicts Of Interest In Rochester School District

Rochester Area School Board / Beaver Countian File Photo

Rochester Area School Board / Beaver Countian File Photo April 2011

Rochester Area School District violated multiple provisions of school code, had conflicts of interest involving a former school board member, and entered a severance agreement with a former superintendent that cost taxpayers more than $146,000. That’s according to an audit conducted by the State Department of Auditor General.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale spoke about the audit’s findings today in an exclusive interview with the Beaver Countian.

State auditors found that an employment contract with former Superintendent Carolyn Wilkovich did not contain adequate termination provisions, and the district subsequently spent $146,328 in legal fees, wage and benefit payments to remove the woman from office back in 2012.

Of that total, more than $25,000 was paid to Attorney John Havey to act as “special outside counsel.” Rochester School District Solicitor Myron Sainovich has offices in the same building as Havey in Aliquippa.

“Management needs to do a better job of running the Rochester School District,” said Auditor General DePasquale. “There needs to be a concerted effort, especially in this difficult economic time, to make sure that every penny is put to use in classrooms for the education of children. I’m going to keep banging away to make sure not only the Rochester School District, but every school district in Pennsylvania is meeting that test.”

Along with wasteful and needless spending, Auditor General DePasquale said his office also found conflicts of interest involving a now former school board member’s business dealings with the district.

The controversy dates back to April 2009, when the Rochester School Board awarded a $354,636 contract for indoor swimming pool renovations.

“For the cost of it, I really hope the pool is at least nice,” said Auditor General DePasquale. But it wasn’t the cost of the pool that troubled state auditors.

The contract for renovations was awarded to a company owned by a man named John Martino, who became a member of the district’s school board three weeks later.

While a member of school board, and while serving as the board’s treasurer, Martino approved payments of bills to his own company. He also approved a change order to the original contract for his company, which along with three others approved before he took office, were worth over $56,000.

Auditors say John Martino likewise failed to file financial interest statements with the district as required by the Pennsylvania Ethics Act. He abruptly resigned from office back in September, 2012.

“It’s more than troubling on the ethics side of things,” Auditor General DePasquale told the Beaver Countian. “Votes were cast that were of a financial benefit to him. He had an obligation not only to disclose that but also to recuse himself from voting.”

“He did not even file a statement of financial interest, which in today’s day and age is absolutely staggering,” continued Auditor General DePasquale. “Not filing a statement is extremely rare, and having this conflict while not filing raises significant questions [...] Pennsylvania State law is clear, and we have forwarded this matter along with others to the State Ethics Commission. We need to see if there is formal action that needs to be taken other than just me calling him out.”

“The public has the right to know how you make your money, and where the potential conflicts are, where the potential landmines may be,” concluded Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

John Martino was unavailable for comment when his business was contacted by the Beaver Countian Wednesday afternoon. The Rochester Area School District declined to respond to state auditors about their findings.

22 comments

  • And any of this surprises anybody? What elected group in Beaver County does things the legal/ethical way? I can’t think of any…..can you?

  • There’s a lot more going on in that school than just this crap! Enrollment is dwindling fast because, on many levels there are issues that offical’s mishandle! Dr. Bovalino is an amazing lady and has the potential to turn it around if the right people are put in place!

  • Do the people of Beaver County realize that without J.P. most news of this kind would have been swept under rugs? J.P. keep up the great work! You have managed to shake up most of the towns and school districts in the county as well as the powers that be for Beaver County. Just continue to report all the facts and maybe Beaver County will become a good place to live and work again.

  • good for rochester

    they hire a solicitor that had been sued and fired every where he represented.

    and if wilkovich needed fired or forced fine but better easy to do it, he was best friends with her husband prior to being hired but will do what ever board wants not the right way just his way, check western beaver he cost them a million

    with his legal guidance they will be bankrupt before long, he already talked them into a special counsel yeah special he pays for his building in quip and he’s special alright he just got his law licence back after being in prison, great job guys great job…..

    Martino shame on you, come on you know better than that Johnny Mike need work that bad????

  • It’s interesting that web searches at the time for the main actors here led to dead ends or disconnected links and web sites that were taken down. Even now, try to search for these people, and you will find much the same.

  • Is anyone shocked by this. Conflict of interest and RASD go hand in hand. Does the Treasurer’s wife still work in the Business Office. Hmmm?

  • They need better security safety measures. Why have medal detectors if they aren’t being used right. A visitor walks in an it goes off an the guard doesn’t tell the visitor to stay their an empty their pockets. I have 8 yrs in the security field

  • Local politics are pathetic…managed by egos who know exactly what this district needs. Failure to plan and execute based on preparing students to maximize individual skills is unconscionable, but alive and well. Someone needs to be accountable for dollars per student experience vs.. myopic dollars spent in response to poor prioritization and lousy/naïve choices! Look around, make comparisons w/districts that are providing high quality/student focused holistic education, academic, technical, goal oriented, social and competitive!

  • Swimming pool?! What swimming pool? We do NOT have a swimming pool just an old leaky room that use to be a swimming pool.

  • Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is a window licker to begin with.
    He talks about better management, maybe he really needs to look at the dead weight house of representatives before giving advise on the rest of us.

    Brian Poth, proper grammar and spelling obviously is not part of the security field.

  • They need to call in the Attorney General and FYI the Auditor General looks at ALL schools. Notice the times didnt even name John Martino..hmmmm