Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Bensalem School District fires groundskeeper

Termination linked to the district's and police investigations of alleged falsification of work records.

Bensalem School District fires groundskeeper

The Bensalem Township School District has fired a groundskeeper who allegedly was involved in the falsification of work records, officials said Friday.

The worker, who was terminated by the school board Wednesday, is the fourth employee of the Facilities Department to be implicated in the alleged falsification of time cards.

Some employees in that department, which consists of groundskeepers, custodians, and maintenance workers, were clocking in for co-workers who failed to show up or were late for work, labor lawyer Michael Levin said.

Township police are investigating the time-card case and a separate case involving the alleged theft of auto parts worth more than $400,000 by two employees.

The groundskeeper’s firing was connected to the time-card case, Levin said, but he declined to provide details.

The school board approved the firing by a 7-0 vote, with a resolution that the employee "was accused of engaging in conduct that, if true, may constitute immorality, neglect of duty and improper conduct.”

The employee did not request a hearing to contest his dismissal, according to the resolutuion.

The district does not discuss personnel matters, a spokeswoman said.  

District officials confirmed in May that they were investigating the alleged falsification of time cards and that two employees had resigned and one had retired. In June, they hired the accounting firm of EisnerAmper to perform a forensic audit and operational review of the district’s operations.

“We’re working with EisnerAmper and the police,” the spokeswoman said. “It is important as a district, an administration and a [school] board that the district is operating as it should be.”

A police spokesman said the investigations of time-card falsification and auto-parts thefts are ongoing. More arrests are “likely” in the parts thefts, he said.

Last month, police charged the shop foreman and a mechanic at the district’s bus garage with theft and receiving stolen property, both third-degree felonies with maximum prison sentences of seven years.

Frederick Lange, 68, of Croydon, who also was lead mechanic, allegedly stole tires, batteries, brake pads, and other items worth more than $400,000 over the past 10 years, according to court documents. He also was charged with using his cell phone to sell the stolen goods.

Martin Chappell, 61, of Bensalem, who has worked for the district for 21 years, allegedly stole parts worth more than $2,300 "over an extended period of time," according to court documents.

About this blog
Chris Palmer covers Bucks County for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His previous work has appeared in the New York Times and on several Times blogs, including City Room, the Local East Village and SchoolBook (which has since been taken over by WNYC). Contact him at cpalmer@phillynews.com, 610 313 8212 or on Twitter, @cs_palmer.

Ben Finley covers Bucks County for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He previously worked for The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and the Bucks County Courier Times, where he won more than a dozen journalism awards from organizations including the Education Writers Association, the Society for Features Journalism and the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio and graduated with honors from The Ohio State University with a degree in journalism. Contact him at bfinley@phillynews.com, 610-313-8118 or on Twitter, @Ben_Finley.

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