Police, York Suburban school board quiet on 'ongoing criminal investigation'

Jason Addy and Junior Gonzalez
York Dispatch

Police and York Suburban School District officials are not commenting on an ongoing criminal investigation that appears to have begun the night of Sept. 11 after a school board committee meeting.

In response to a Right-to-Know Law request, the Spring Garden Township Police Department confirmed last week that an officer was dispatched to York Suburban High School at 9:30 p.m. that day for a report of criminal mischief.

The school board held a 7 p.m. planning committee meeting Sept. 11 at the administration building, which is on the same property as the high school at 1800 Hollywood Drive. The meeting adjourned at 8:01 p.m., according to meeting minutes on the district’s website.

The same officer followed up on the original complaint on Sept. 13, according to the police department records turned over as a result of the open records request.

Township police Chief George Swartz, as well as current and former school board members and district administrators, repeatedly has declined to comment on the incident.

In this file photo, York Suburban Superintendent Shelly Merkle gives an update on her district during a news conference regarding the Campaign for Fair Education Funding at the York City School administrative building in York City, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The Sept. 11 meeting was the final one for former Superintendent Shelly Merkle.

On Sept. 14, Merkle began what district officials later described as a medical leave of absence, although that information was not revealed until more than a week later.

More:Who's in charge at York Suburban? Superintendent takes leave, assistant retires

During that week, the district’s top two administrative posts were vacant, as former Assistant Superintendent Patricia Maloney’s previously announced retirement took effect Sept. 15.

Corinne Mason, the district’s director of finance, confirmed Merkle’s absence on Friday, Sept. 22, saying she, Mason, would be serving as the point of contact for administrators until an interim superintendent was appointed.

More:York Suburban superintendent resigns; district searching for 'substitute'

On Monday, Sept. 25, Merkle, a public employee who was making $186,000 a year, submitted a letter of resignation, which the board unanimously accepted that night at its regularly scheduled board meeting.

No board member would comment on the resignation. Board president Lynne Leopold-Sharp cited “personnel matters” and “personal health information” as reasons why the board members would not be commenting on Merkle's exit.

In addition to the open-records request made to the Spring Garden Township Police Department, The York Dispatch also submitted Right-to-Know requests to the school district, including one seeking any video footage that shows Merkle in a district-owned parking lot after the Sept. 11 school board meeting.

On Tuesday, Oct. 31, Mason — who is also the district’s open records officer — denied the request, in part, because the request relates “to an ongoing criminal investigation” and because it relates to “a former District employee and comprises confidential information contained in the former employee’s personnel file.”

Another request for comment from Chief Swartz also was not returned Wednesday.

Additional requests for comment made via telephone and email to board members were either not returned or deferred to Mason on Wednesday, Nov. 1.

Asked for more information about the "ongoing criminal investigation," Mason referred a York Dispatch reporter to her open records response and said she could not comment further.

In a statement to The York Dispatch via email, Edward Paskey, attorney for Maloney, said, “It would be inappropriate for Dr. Maloney or me to comment specifically on any ongoing criminal investigation.”

He said Maloney "has been, and will continue to be, cooperative with law enforcement. She looks forward to the completion of the investigation process and the confirmation that she has done absolutely nothing wrong and has nothing to hide.”

Merkle, whose last formal day at York Suburban was Sept. 30, signed a resignation and release agreement on Sept. 25, the same day she submitted her letter of resignation.

The release agreement, obtained by The York Dispatch through a Right-to-Know request, shows she left with 55 unused vacation days, more than 196 unused sick days and 3¼ days of unused personal leave. The total amount owed to her, according to the agreement, is $53,445.89.

More:York Suburban board approves acting superintendent

Of that amount, $39,345.90 will be paid out to Merkle directly, while $11,775 of accrued sick leave and $2,324.99 in personal leave will be paid out as a contribution to Merkle’s account in York Suburban’s retirement savings plan.

On Oct. 9, the York Suburban school board voted to hire Larry R. Redding, a former superintendent of the Gettysburg Area School District, as interim superintendent for the remainder of the school year.

More:Former York Suburban assistant superintendent hired at Dover

Maloney, who retired as York Suburban’s assistant superintendent on Sept. 15, started work on Oct. 18 as Dover Area School District’s temporary assistant superintendent.