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Solicitor ready to finish case

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By Jesef Williams

A local prosecutor is preparing to submit his conclusion regarding a case about a former Indian Land High School administrative assistant who was allegedly paid thousands of dollars for days she did not work.

Sixth Circuit Solicitor Doug Barfield said he has gathered all the information he needs and is now trying to find time to write his findings. He said recent court proceedings have kept him busy.

Once he writes his conclusion, he will submit it to the State Law Enforcement Division, which has looked into the Lancaster County School District case off and on since 2004.He said Tuesday he plans to have his conclusion written by the end of this week.

Donna McClennen, a former secretary at Indian Land High, contacted SLED in 2004, asking the agency to investigate. She alleged that:

– The former administrative assistant took sick days beyond her allowed paid sick time between 1999 and 2004 and failed to record them in the official attendance record. As a result, she was paid more than $18,000 in unwarranted earnings.

– The employee received $2,100 in student government money that went toward the construction of a deck and skirting at her mobile home.

– The ILHS principal at the time worked reduced work schedules and also missed a significant number of days that weren't reported.

– The school district authorized nine more comp days for the administrative assistant in 2004 at the request of the former principal, with the knowledge that the employee and principal had already failed to report months of missed work.

The district deducted money from the employee's subsequent paychecks until the $2,100 was paid back. The employee, who was transferred to Lancaster High School, was later fired for missing too many days.

McClennen, who no longer works for the district, said she is glad to know that a conclusion is forthcoming, but wonders why it took this long to get to this point.

McClennen believes the district should have been more proactive in its investigation. She also wonders why district officials haven't shown more urgency in recouping the more than $18,000 that the employee was allegedly paid.

"This was a simple personnel problem," McClennen said. "We need to be more worried about doing good than looking good. There's been a failure at every level."

School district Superintendent Dr. Gene Moore said he last reviewed the case in 2006, his first year in the district, and hasn't looked at it since.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's closed," he said.

Moore doesn't plan to review the case again, but said district officials will cooperate with SLED and the solicitor's office, if needed.

Candidates' concern

The Rev. AnThony Pelham, who's vying for the District 4 school board seat, said the case represents the district's lack of accountability. This is one of the reasons why he chose to run, he said.

"It also shows the frustration that comes with trying to bring critical issues to their (district officials) attention," Pelham said. "It's frustrating to me."

Pelham's opponent, Dr. Peter Barry, the incumbent, doesn't believe the case needs to be probed any further. He said he will await Barfield's conclusion."

"My concern would be that the issues would be examined, scrutinized and resolved," Barry said. "And it appears to be resolved."

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152