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School backs principal facing investigations

While he awaits the results of investigations by the school superintendent and the state into accusations of being a bag man for a reputed mobster, King High School principal Frank Scaglione can rest assured he has plenty of support at his school.

Parents and students at King High have circulated petitions in support of Scaglione. They plan to present the signatures to the Hillsborough County School Board tonight. The signatures _ collected in the school cafeteria and teachers' lounge _ are intended to counteract what supporters see as unnecessarily negative news stories about Scaglione.

"We wanted to do something to show the public what kind of support he has," said Cindy Xenick, president of the King High PTSA. "We've been very upset at the newspaper articles. We don't even understand why this would come up now."

Scaglione's name has surfaced in connection with a reputed Mafia extortionist targeted by the task force investigating Key Bank of Florida. In federal court records, Scaglione is described as a front man who in the early 1980s delivered cash payments from extortion victims to reputed loan shark James William Donofrio.

And recently released affidavits related to the Key Bank inquiry describe Scaglione as having an important role in an arrangement between Donofrio and the bank a decade ago. Scaglione was principal at Tampa Catholic High School at the time court records indicate he was involved with Donofrio.

Scaglione, 59, has been principal at King High since 1985. He has not been charged with any crime.

News stories detailing Scaglione's activities have prompted investigations by the state and the local school superintendent. On Monday, Superintendent Walter Sickles discussed Scaglione's case with State Education Commissioner Betty Castor and learned that the state was waiting for the district to complete its investigation.

Sickles had hoped to complete his inquiry and to describe his findings in a letter to the School Board before a meeting tonight. On Monday, Sickles said that he probably wouldn't have that letter ready by then. He said he won't interview Scaglione until he has a chance to look over court documents that name Scaglione.

One of the documents Sickles will want to review is from a federal court file in a case that resulted in an extortion charge against Donofrio. The charges were dropped when Donofrio was found incompetent to stand trial.

Court documents from that case describe Scaglione transferring money from a man named Patrick J. Sullivan to Donofrio.

Scaglione testified before a grand jury investigating that case. In court testimony, FBI agent Brian Gorczyk said Scaglione "had to be immunized to get his testimony."

Another document Sickles will want to review is an affidavit from the investigation of Key Bank. When loan customers fell behind in payments to Donofrio, he took them to Key Bank, where they got unsecured loans, records say.

The loans were used to pay Donofrio, and in one case Donofrio required the person getting the loan to put Scaglione on the payroll to ensure that Key Bank would be repaid, affidavits say.

Scaglione's supporters, who say they've known the principal for years, maintain he has done a good job in education and say the allegations are from decade-old activities.

"These are all old allegations," said Bill Johnson, president of the King High Athletics Booster Club. "Two words I would use to describe him are: integrity and gentleman."

"He's doing a good job now," said Luciana Duckett, 17, a senior at King who signed a petition Monday during her lunch break. "I feel what he did in the past is in the past. He's a good principal now. That's what's important."

_ STEPHEN HEGARTY

and JEFF TESTERMAN

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