6 Pleasant Valley staff members related to board members
By Lynn Ondrusek
Pocono Record Writer
In the Pleasant Valley School District, there are at least six staff members who are related to school board members.
In September, Travis Serfass, son of school director Robert Serfass, was hired as the director of buildings and grounds at a rate of $78,000 a year. The vote was 6-2, with school directors Daniel Wunder and Susan Kresge the dissenting votes. Serfass abstained from voting.
The hiring has raised some eyebrows in the district regarding the hiring practices of the board.
Using an elected position to gain employment is a common complaint seen by the state’s ethics commission said Rob Caruso, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission.
Travis Serfass' hiring wasn't the first time eyebrows have been raised, either.
In 2014, school board President Russ Gould’s son, Matthew, was hired as the boys' basketball coach to replace long-time coach Ken Piontkowski. As a teacher, Matthew Gould makes $43,700 a year, according to district records.
At the time, Kresge and Wunder voted against the hiring, while board member Dominic Sacci abstained because he didn’t participate in the interview process. Russ Gould abstained from voting.
Abstaining from voting a relative into a position may not be all that elected officials have to do to toe the line. Caruso said if the elected official has talked to the other members of the board about hiring their relative that could be an ethics violation.
“If it’s shown, and it’s pretty open, the public official didn’t participate in evaluating resumes and didn’t participate in the interview process … then the ethics acts wouldn’t be involved,” Caruso said.
Board member Linda Micklos’ son, Justin Micklos, works in the district as a paraprofessional and is the head wrestling coach. He makes $23,949 a year, records show.
Wunder’s son, Alex Wunder, is a also listed as a paraprofessional, and makes $23,599 a year, records show.
Kresge’s daughter, Danielle Lukashewski, is listed as a teacher, records show, and makes $45,700. Kresge said she was hired after being a substitute teacher for a year in the district.
Desiree Kersge, Sue Kresge’s daughter-in-law, was hired a number of years before becoming her daughter-in-law, Sue Kresge said. Desiree Kresge is a teacher, making $51,900 a year.
Over the years, Caruso said, the hiring of relatives has been one of the bigger issues addressed by the teams of ethics investigators.
But a full investigation can take months to conduct, and they can be hard to prove.
The ethics commission looks at 500 cases a year with just six investigators, which takes times to do the due diligence for each case, Caruso said.
School board members did not immediately respond for comment Monday.