CUYAHOGA FALLS — A treasurer who is being let go by Stow-Munroe Falls schools after she reported financial irregularities to the state will take charge of the city school district’s finances next year.
The Cuyahoga Falls City School Board of Education Thursday night agreed to hire Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools Treasurer Kristy Stoicoiu to fill the post that two former treasurers have left in less than two years.
Stoicoiu’s contract with Stow-Munroe Falls is up at the end of July after the board of education in February voted to not keep her on board.
Meanwhile, no trial date is set in the civil complaint she filed in Summit County Common Pleas Court against the Stow-Munroe Falls Board of Education alleging retaliation and wrongful termination.
Stoicoiu, of Kent, will officially become the Cuyahoga Falls City Schools treasurer Aug. 1 following a unanimous vote by the board of education. She has 14 years of experience as a school treasurer, said Board President Karen Schofield.
"She brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience in school finance in addition to the added benefit of work experience in our Six District Compact," Schofield said.
Schofield said Stoicoiu was awarded a three-year contract at $98,000 a year.
Stoicoiu replaces former treasurer Barbara Donohue, who had been hired at the beginning of the school year but resigned in April to accept the treasurer’s position with Shelby City Schools near Mansfield. Donohue had replaced Justin Klingshirn, who was treasurer for about nine months, from June 2017 to March 2018. He left to accept a position with the Vermillion Local School District. This makes Stoicoiu the third treasurer in less than three years.
Kathryn Brugger, assistant treasurer, has been serving as interim treasurer.
According to information from her resumé, Stoicoiu has been the treasurer with the Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools since June 2017. She was assistant treasurer before that for the district from 2011 until she became treasurer. She was assistant treasurer with the Green Local Schools from 2008 to 2010, and served as a payroll clerk with the Jackson Local Schools from 2005 to 2007.
After her contract was not renewed, Stoicoiu filed her complaint against the Stow-Munroe Falls school board alleging wrongful termination, breach of contract, violation of the Ohio’s Whistleblower Statute and a retaliation violation of public policy, as well as violation of Ohio’s Sunshine Law.
In her complaint, Stoicoiu claims the non-renewal of her contract was a "retaliatory action" for reporting "financial irregularities and improper spending of taxpayer dollars" that she believed to be "criminal felonies."
The complaint states the non-renewal of her contract creates "a chilling effect" for all treasurers who suspect financial wrongdoing they should report.
Stoicoiu is seeking a jury trial and to be re-employed for a one-year contract over the 2019-20 year, in addition to any costs associated with the litigation and damages arising from the board’s alleged breach of contract.
The school board has denied the majority of her allegations and has asked the court to dismiss the case, which has been assigned to Judge Mary Rowlands.
In April, Ohio Auditor of State Keith Faber announced that Stow-Munroe Falls Superintendent Thomas Bratten had "authorized illegal expenditures and misspent taxpayer dollars."
Auditors ordered Bratten and his administrative assistant Franca Padula to repay $14,111 in overtime pay Padula had received at Bratten’s authorization.
Stow Board of Education President Kelly Toppin said following the announcement that the superintendent prior to Bratten had improperly attempted to raise Padula’s compensation and stated, "We are disappointed that these irregularities were not brought to our board’s attention in a more timely manner."
In a response to Stoicoiu’s complaint, the district stated, "Stoicoiu knew or should have known about the alleged ‘financial irregularities and improper spending’ in the 2017-18 school year, but failed to report anything to the Board until the 2018-19 school year."
Auditors also said Bratten owed the district $2,290 for improperly purchased gifts for board members, staff and for personal travel expenses.
"Our Board is aware of the circumstances surrounding Ms. Stoicoiu's employment in the Stow-Munroe Falls City School District," Schofield said. "We reviewed the state auditor's report confirming the legitimacy of her concerns and we commend her actions. We are pleased to employ an individual who clearly understands and adheres to the treasurer licensing obligations."
Stoicoiu was hired by the Stow-Munroe Falls schools in May of 2017 as treasurer with a two-year contract at $92,000 annually.
Note: Senior editor Marsha McKenna contributed to this story.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @AprilKHelms_RPC