Two Pennsylvania school superintendents said the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) needs to be more open with its financial records because most of its funding comes from public member school districts.
Laurel School District Superintendent Leonard Rich and Millcreek Township School District Superintendent William Hall are from District 7 and District 10, respectively.
"In my opinion, the PIAA is not a private organization because they are using public money," Rich said. "We are in public positions and there are ways to respond to questions from the media."
Hall said when he began with the PIAA — the governing body for the state's 12 districts made up of more than 500 school districts — several years ago it was a "cash operation" but he immediately halted the process in District X, near Erie.
"There needs to be more accountability in the PIAA and there needs to be more transparency," he said. "They always dealt with cash and we all thought it was odd. We absolutely would want to have transparency because these are tax dollars being used."
District 7, comprised mostly of school districts in and around Pittsburgh, held meetings at locations where there was no food or beverages. After decision-making meetings for the district and PIAA, the group has attended dinners where food and alcohol was purchased and the district picked up the tab, Rich said.
Because the individual district paid the bill, an itemized receipt was never submitted to the PIAA. If individuals submit itemized receipts while conducting PIAA business, alcohol will not be reimbursed according to Robert Lombardi, PIAA's executive director.
"All of our meetings have been at places where there was no food or beverages," Rich said. "The only time food and drinks are purchased are at a social function, with PIAA picking up the bill. But no decisions were ever made when anyone was drinking."
Hall and Rich were two of three superintendents pushing for separate playoffs between public and private schools during a July meeting in Pittsburgh. Hall and Rich both said they are working with a state lawmakers to propose legislation in which separate playoffs. State Rep. Scott Conklin, D-77, of Centre County is also set to release his proposed legislation that would place the PIAA under more control of the commonwealth.
Lombardi said the PIAA does not require districts to turn in receipts, but the organization has a policy on reimbursement of expenses including alcohol.
"PIAA does not pay for district expenses or request district receipts," Lombardi said in an email. "Districts are audited on a rotating basis by our auditors. We have not received concerns from our auditors on this topic."
Lombardi said the organization has a policy for individual reimbursement while conducting PIAA business.
"PIAA shall provide for reimbursement of ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in conducting the business of this association," Lombardi wrote. "Reimbursement for PIAA-business related expenses shall be made upon submission of itemized receipts for non-alcoholic beverages, meals and incidental expenses, or, in the alternative, the relevant IRS per diem, lodging, telephone charges, parking charges and other transportation related expenses, including mileage at the prevailing IRS rate."
Lombardi and PIAA board president Jim Zack, who is also the District 4 board president, have not answered questions about receipts from individual districts — including District IV, which covers the Valley — until Tuesday when Lombardi responded by email.
In January, The Daily Item received information that District 4 meetings were being held at establishments that served alcohol and that alcohol was being consumed during the meetings. Several attempts to speak with Zack went unanswered.
In a meeting last week with state Rep. Lynda Culver, R-108, of Sunbury, Lombardi told her the PIAA in Mechanicsburg does not have District 4 receipts and could not tell her what was purchased.
Lombardi responded to a Right to Know request late last week and asked for a 30-day extension in order to locate the information.