Ferry schools seeking treasurer

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Martins Ferry City Schools Superintendent Jim Fogle and Board Member Brian McFarland and other members of the board prepare to conduct interviews Wednesday for the treasurer’s seat.

MARTINS FERRY — Martins Ferry City Schools District is looking to fill the vacant treasurer’s position and interviewed candidates Wednesday and will do so “in the near future” according to Superintendent Jim Fogle.

Board Members Nick Stankovich, Dorothy Powell, Bill Suto, and Brian McFarland went behind closed doors about one minute into the meeting. The session itself lasted more than two hours and no action was taken, but the next board meeting was set for 5:30 p.m. Monday. Board member Scott Ballint was absent Wednesday.

Logan Ballint, who had served as deputy treasurer under prior treasurer Karen Blake, was present for the first hour of the executive session, then left. At that point, Scott Ballint, who is Logan Ballint’s father, entered the executive session. The meeting went on for roughly another hour.

Fogle indicated Logan Ballint was a candidate interviewed and said there might have been another potential candidate. He would not say how many candidates have shown interest.

“That was all done in executive session,” Fogle said. “There was no decisions made tonight.”

He did not indicate whether any decision might be made Monday.

“The only thing we did out of executive session was pledge to the flag,” Suto said.

Blake resigned in September, having been on paid leave for more than a year, but she will continue to draw her pay and benefits until Dec. 31, 2021. She earns $115,000 a year, not including benefits.

According to the agreement, Blake and the board agree to release each other from all liability and damages arising out of Blake’s employment. The agreement also specifies that Blake will hold the title of assistant treasurer, but she will not be required to report for work. Blake said since beginning work in 2011 she had found improprieties in district operations.

In a later response statement, Fogle said Blake produced alleged improprieties after she was put on paid administrative leave and some of the alleged improprieties had already been provided to the district in the past, and investigated and found not to be improper. In many instances, Mrs. Blake was not able to provide any substantiation for her allegations. Fogle said that, following receipt of the alleged improprieties in district operations, the Martins Ferry Board of Education submitted the allegations to and requested a formal review of the district’s finances by the Ohio Auditor’s office for the year ending June 30, 2018.

The district asked the state agency to determine if there were any significant internal control deficiencies, fraud, including noncompliance with government laws and regulations, and also abuse and noncompliance with grant agreements and contracts.

On May 29, 2019, the Ohio Auditor’s office reported five minor findings and concluded there were no identified deficiencies in internal control that they consider material weaknesses. However, unidentified material weakness may exist.”

The board’s statement said it had entered a resignation agreement with Blake before concluding its investigation into performance issues related to her duties. The decision was made to enter into an agreement to avoid the further cost of investigation and further disruption to the school’s operations while spending time conducting the investigation.