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Published: Thursday, 9/29/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Treasurer of Toledo schools resigns after complaints

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
TPS Superintendent, John Foley, left, and TPS Treasurer Dan Romano, right, speak during a special meeting of the Toledo Public School Board on March 3, 2010. TPS Superintendent, John Foley, left, and TPS Treasurer Dan Romano, right, speak during a special meeting of the Toledo Public School Board on March 3, 2010.
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The Toledo Board of Education last night accepted the resignation of district Treasurer Dan Romano, citing differences in professional opinion.

The exit of Mr. Romano, who has been treasurer for five years, followed closed board meetings Wednesday night and last week that were held, in part, for the board to meet with its attorney over pending or imminent court action.

The board issued a statement about the resignation, and board President Bob Vasquez said there would be no further comment by board members about Mr. Romano. The statement said Mr. Romano "has made a number of important management contributions," and thanked him for his service, but said differences had arisen.

"However, it has become clear over the past few months that Dan and the board have honest differences of professional opinion about how the district should move forward," the statement reads. "Dan and the board believe that a separation at this time is in the best interests of all parties concerned."

While board members would not comment specifically on Mr. Romano last night, concerns about the treasurer's office have been expressed publicly and privately in recent weeks.

Hundreds of teachers have not received pay from work over the summer and they have pointed at Mr. Romano for failure to do so.

At Monday's school board meeting, the president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers, Kevin Dalton, publicly criticized Mr. Romano's office over the delayed payments, drawing applause from TFT members in the audience.

School board members joined in the criticism, telling Mr. Romano to fix the problem.

"I really don't give a damn what the problem is," board member Larry Sykes said, "I want it corrected."

Mr. Romano was not at last night's board meeting, and he did not return messages seeking comment. He was also not at the special meeting last week, although district officials attributed his absence at the time to a previously scheduled "professional leave."

Mr. Romano, who was under contract until July 31, 2013, will receive his earned and accrued sick and vacation pay, as well as a negotiated sum of $116,500 as part of a settlement agreement with the district. Mr. Romano's gross pay in 2010 was $156,911.49, according to district records; he took a voluntary 4 percent pay cut in July.

He will "be available to the district from time to time in order to consult concerning a smooth transition in the office of the treasurer," according to the resolution passed by the board for his release.

Mr. Dalton said teachers have seen payments delayed for the past two or three years. More than 300 teachers who attended training in August have yet to be paid.

A teacher who was wrongly laid off has still not received a paycheck. Teachers who were promised extra pay for moving into hard-to-staff schools have yet to receive the extra funds.

Mr. Dalton said that if it took Mr. Romano leaving the district to solve the problem, then the board made the right decision.

"I am glad to see this district is taking some ownership and trying to right this situation," he said.

Teachers have not been the only ones left waiting for checks, according to district officials.

Lisa Sobecki, vice president of the board, said she raised concerns in recent months that vendors were not being paid on time. Not only was she worried about possible mistakes or delays being made by TPS, she said she was also concerned that small businesses could experience cash-flow problems because of delays in payments from the district.

The minutes of a Sept. 9 school board finance-committee meeting references to four vendors with "strong payment concerns." Along with accounts payable delays, the district also has been late on utility bills at several schools, Ms. Sobecki said, including trash and water services.

"I would hate to have a no school day because someone didn't pay the bills," she said.

TPS Superintendent Jerome Pecko said the administration started meeting with appropriate departments about three weeks ago to discuss working toward resolving the employee pay issues.

Staff members also have been assigned to work specifically on identifying outstanding unpaid accounts and resolve them as well.

Mr. Pecko said the district converted to a new system for handling purchasing last summer that complicated things as well.

"Our problems are not by any means the fault of any one department or division and the solution is not the responsibility of any one department or division," Mr. Pecko said in a statement he released last night. "This group has taken ownership of the problem and is working diligently to resolve all issues related to the payment of employees. We are committed to working with staff to get the problem resolved for every employee in the district."

Board members also raised concerns Monday and at the Sept. 9 finance meeting about how Mr. Romano has handled a bond refund. After a request for a proposal was sent out to underwriters, a late request was sent to an additional firm.

Mr. Romano said the move was done in consultation with the district's bond counsel, but board members said they were wary the late request could open them up for liability. "My concern is we send out a [Request for Proposal] and then we open the field up for someone else later, it could cause problems," Mr. Vasquez said at the finance meeting, according to the minutes.

Mr. Romano had two stints with TPS, spending time in the treasurer's office from 1989 to 1997, then returning in 2006, becoming treasurer after a stint as business manager. Mr. Romano replaced Dan Burns, who retired.

Burns was sentenced in January to 10 years in prison for theft and ordered to pay $658,428 in restitution for his role in a scheme that defrauded the school district hundreds of thousands of dollars between 2002 and 2006.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086.



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