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Lake Shore district gets back $22,679 'Retired' school chief was vastly overpaid

Former Lake Shore School Superintendent Kenneth J. Connolly has repaid the district $22,679, after state auditors found he had been overpaid much more than twice that amount during his decade there.

Connolly also has agreed not to ask Lake Shore to pay for his post-retirement health insurance -- something his contract had entitled him to for 10 years.

"I think the board is very pleased with the settlement, and I think we are thrilled to put this behind us and move forward with the district's goals," said Jeffrey R. Rabey, who succeeded Connolly as superintendent.

Connolly left Lake Shore in July 2005 to become superintendent in the Lakeland School District downstate. A few months before he left, he submitted a letter to the Lake Shore School Board indicating he was "resigning for the purposes of retirement," even though it was clear he was headed to another district.

By invoking the "retirement" language, Connolly was able to access $16,000 in unused sick and vacation days that he would not have received had he simply resigned. He has not agreed to repay any of those funds.

He did not respond to a phone message at his Lakeland office Tuesday afternoon, but in the past, he has said he believes his use of "retirement" when he left Lake Shore was proper.

Connolly did, however, agree to repay $10,125 for 15 vacation days he used in July 2005, after he had already begun working in Lakeland. He started in Lakeland on July 1 but remained on the Lake Shore payroll through the middle of the month.

He also agreed to repay $12,554 for overpayments he received from 2001 through 2005. That includes a $7,266 retroactive payment he got in 2001-02 that the state comptroller's audit determined he was not entitled to, along with compensation for a number of unused benefit days that auditors said he should not have received.

Connolly got the retroactive money because a few other administrators got a retroactive payment at the time. The district had been in the practice of extending to the superintendent any benefits that other administrators received -- a practice that the comptroller's office has deemed unacceptable.

In the recent settlement, Connolly also agreed not to ask Lake Shore to pay his post-retirement health insurance. He had previously agreed not to draw that benefit, but lawyers advised Lake Shore officials to have that incorporated into this settlement, as well, Rabey said. Rabey estimated that the benefit could have cost Lake Shore as much as $245,000 over a decade.

The Lake Shore School Board approved the settlement with Connolly on Dec. 20; he signed it two days later. The signed documents, along with Connolly's $22,679 check, arrived in Lake Shore late last week. Lake Shore officials gave the documents a final review Tuesday before announcing the settlement.

e-mail: mpasciak@buffnews.com

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