Why are Susquehanna school administrators expensing legal fees? - abc27 WHTM

Why are Susquehanna school administrators expensing legal fees?

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In the month of December, Susquehanna Township School District paid out more than $18,000 in legal fees for private attorneys of two superintendents, according to emails obtained by abc27.

The district is currently embroiled in several lawsuits and a criminal investigation by the Dauphin County District Attorney's Office over how allegations against an assistant principal charged with having sex with a 16-year-old student were handled.

Shawn Sharkey was arrested and resigned from his job in September, but district administrators previously admitted they were made aware of "rumors" regarding Sharkey as early as May.

In an email dated December 16, 2013, board member Mark Sussman asked the district to explain several transactions made by the business office, including a check for more than $6,100 to superintendent Dr. Susan Kegerise's personal attorney, and another check for more than $12,000 paid to a firm representing assistant superintendent Cathy Taschner.

"If the taxpayers are footing the bill -- that could not be more inappropriate," said attorney Bret Keisling.

Keisling is representing Sussman and fellow board member Jesse Rawls Sr. in a federal lawsuit over Kegerise's contract -- specifically, clauses that spell out how board members can speak to her. He said since filing suit, Kegerise has refused to speak to his clients, even when they request clarity over expenditures.

"I think it's very clear that if Dr. Kegerise considers you her supporter, she shares a lot of information," he said. "But if you are perceived as being against her interests, you're cut out of the loop."

In another email dated December 17, 2013, the district business manager attributes Taschner's $12,000 bill to "legal services concerning the Dauphin County District Attorney."

A call and email to school district spokesperson Susan Anthony were not returned Monday afternoon, and an attempt by abc27 to reach Kegerise directly was unsuccessful.

Keisling says whatever the reason for the legal fees, the district pays a solicitor to handle these issues -- not private counsel.

"This information comes to the school board after the checks have been issued," he said. "So even if a school board member says 'this check is not appropriate; we do not approve this expense,' Dr. Kegerise has already paid the invoice or issued the money."

Kegerise's attorney, Jason Kutulakis, responded to an email from abc27 Monday night, saying in part:

"Both Dr. Kegerise and Dr. Taschner are entitled as a matter of law to be defended. The board has received a thorough legal opinion on this issue."

He would not respond to questions regarding what services were rendered through his firm or if Kegerise's contract even allows for the hiring of a private attorney.

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