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The allegations

Beginning with an initial complaint in December by School Board Chairwoman Gail Coleman, Hernando County sheriff's detectives Robert Libengood, Mike Owens and Scott Bierwiler began tracking down a series of allegations of fraud and theft involving school system officials and employees.

Here is a list of the allegations and what the detectives found:

ALLEGATION NO. 1: Coleman alleged that Humana Health Care officials may have bribed some School Board members and school employees two years ago in exchange for their support of the company as the district's health insurance carrier.

The detectives examined the financial records of all board members and several school officials and found nothing suspicious. After interviews with board members and Allen Martinez, who along with his father, former Gov. Bob Martinez, lobbied several individuals on behalf of Humana, the detectives said they found no evidence that any bribe had been made.

ALLEGATION NO. 2: School Board Vice Chairman Stephen Galaydick alleged that personal connections between employees of Sherwin-Williams Co. of Brooksville, a paint supply store, and plant operation workers led to Sherwin-Williams getting district business without submitting bids.

As an example, he said Sherwin-Williams once painted the district's plant operations building without submitting a bid.

Detectives talked with officials from Sherwin-Williams and found that the store is only a supplier of paint but does have several subcontractors with whom it contracts to do paint jobs.

Kathy Scruggs, a secretary in plant operations who acknowledges that she is a friend of the manager at Sherwin-Williams, told detectives that Sherwin-Williams received the plant operations job, along with several others, because it usually was the lowest bid.

Scruggs, however, could not provide authorities with a copy of the vendor lists she used to get quotes.

She told the detectives that she chooses vendors from her past involvement with particular businesses that she knows "are capable of doing certain jobs."

The detectives concluded that the documents and statements they saw showed no evidence to substantiate a criminal charge.

ALLEGATION NO. 3: Galaydick alleged that district officials paid a Hudson auto shop company large sums to paint school vehicles and that Barry Crowley, a former crew chief in the plant operations department, had his Corvette painted by the company at the same time.

Gary Clark, the owner of Electro Bake, showed detectives Crowley's credit card receipt for the $768.50 paint job that was done in July 1994. A few months later, Clark submitted his bid for the district painting job.

The detectives' report said there was no indication of any criminal activity.

ALLEGATION NO. 4: Galaydick alleged that IBM officials may have offered bribes to School Board members in exchange for their votes to buy a $1.2-million computer system from IBM. The board purchased the IBM system this year.

All five School Board members denied to authorities that they had been offered any bribes or incentives. They said they chose IBM because they believed it was a better computer system.

ALLEGATION NO. 5: Galaydick told detectives that state money earmarked for school construction was being diverted improperly by plant operations managers.

After talking with Crowley, the former plant operations crew chief, and Don Metz, who was demoted from his job as director of maintenance this spring, the detectives found no evidence that funds were being used improperly. The detectives said district financial director Tim Bargeron had signed off on all of the fund transfers.

ALLEGATION NO. 6: Galaydick and C. J. Zimoski, a custodian at Springstead High School, said that false documents and a fraudulent insurance claim were submitted to justify the purchase of a new energy management system at Springstead.

Engineering consultant Grady McGraw examined the equipment and told investigators it was in working condition. However, detectives found no evidence of criminal activity (see accompanying story).

ALLEGATION NO. 7: Coleman alleges that some school employees' homes were being painted by other district workers on school time and possibly with school system supplies.

James Simmons, a district painter, was arrested Monday on grand theft charges. He was accused of using three 5-gallon cans of paint from the school system to paint a purchasing assistant's house (see accompanying story).

ALLEGATION NO. 8: John Carr, a district maintenance worker, said Sherwin-Williams billed the district for paint that was sold to friends of company officials, some of whom worked for the school district.

The detectives found no evidence to substantiate the claim.

ALLEGATION NO. 9: Coleman alleged that Superintendent John Sanders used "questionable business practices" with her and School Board attorney Karen Gaffney after Coleman voiced concerns to Sanders about employees accepting gifts from companies with whom the school district does business.

Coleman alleged that when she raised the concerns, Sanders questioned her about her personal finances and offered to find jobs for her and her husband, Mark. Coleman said the superintendent told her "that was how business was done" and he didn't see a problem with it.

After their conversation, Coleman said, Sanders met with Gaffney shortly before the board was scheduled to vote on Gaffney's contract renewal in December. He allegedly asked her opinion about employees accepting gifts from vendors. According to Coleman, Gaffney said she told Sanders it was improper and illegal. It was then, Coleman said, that Sanders supposedly presented Gaffney with a hypothetical situation in which a School Board attorney might be given a $150,000 contract if the lawyer agreed to "look the other way."

Coleman said Gaffney was so upset with what Sanders had said that she got into a minor car accident shortly after their meeting.

In conversations with authorities, both Sanders and Gaffney denied that he had tried to improperly influence either Coleman or Gaffney.

ALLEGATION NO. 10: Coleman and Galaydick alleged that vendors for the school system had given gifts to School Board members and employees in exchange for business.

The detectives found that only promotional items such as pens and lighters had been given to employees.

ALLEGATION NO. 11: Galaydick accused Crowley of improperly selling and purchasing school district vehicles.

The report found no wrongdoing on Crowley's part because he received approval from his supervisor, Don Metz, and purchasing director John Tucker to trade 13 used vehicles last year for $4,000 worth of credit toward a 1988 Ford Bronco, which sold for $6,200.

ALLEGATION NO. 12: Coleman said Crowley filed fraudulent claims with the district's insurance company, but she did not list any specific information.

Several district property loss claims had been questioned by the district's insurance company. However, insurance officials told authorities they would not pursue criminal charges (see accompanying story).

_ Teresa D. Brown

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