PLAINS TWP. – The Wilkes-Barre Area Career and Technology Center Joint Operating Committee decided Monday to have co-solicitors this coming year, and voted to appoint attorney Ray Wendolowski to join current solicitor Jack Dean.
Committee Member Gene Mancini, who represents Crestwood School Board on the JOC, opposed the move. Look how well it worked out for Wilkes-Barre Area, Mancini said after the meeting, referring to a sharp escalation in legal fees at the district from 2008 through 2011.
But JOC Chairman Gary Smith, who was re-elected to that post at the start of Monday's meeting, said Wendolowski has been doing work for the CTC and was made co-solicitor because some of that work – including administrative contract issues and work related to expansion of the practical nursing facilities – is ongoing. Dean and Wendolowski will be paid $125 an hour with no retainer fees or set hours.
Wendolowski was assistant solicitor at Wilkes-Barre Area until this year, when that school board opted to eliminate the assistant post, then made Wendolowski the solicitor. Anthony Lupas had served as solicitor there for decades, as well as filling the same spot for Wilkes-Barre Area CTC, but resigned both positions earlier this year, shortly before being indicted on federal charges that he ran an investments scheme that bilked people out of millions.
The charges were unrelated to his school work, but the escalation of payments to him by Wilkes-Barre Area – climbing six-fold in three years – coupled with federal subpoenas for records of his bills, prompted the board to contract a firm to conduct a forensic audit on those bills. Results of the audit are expected in January.
Wilkes-Barre Area School Board appointed Wendolowski as solicitor at an annual cost of $195,000, but it encompasses almost all work he does in that capacity along with any expenses, rather than paying a retainer plus an hourly fee and expenses.
The JOC that runs Wilkes-Barre Area CTC is composed of representatives from the school boards of five districts that send students to the center. Districts that send more students to the CTC get more seats on the JOC. Of the 11 members, five are Wilkes-Barre Area School Board members. The Wilkes-Barre Area superintendent – currently Bernard Prevuznak – has also served as CTC superintendent of record for decades.