HAYFIELD TOWNSHIP — PENNCREST School Board plans to seek legal advice on how it should respond to a request by a school board member who wants the district to pay his legal fees from a lawsuit he filed against the district in 2016.

Board member Luigi DeFrancesco made a motion during Thursday's school board meeting requesting the reimbursement of his personal legal fees that were spent during a lawsuit in September 2016 against the school board and former superintendent Michael Healey over access to PENNCREST attorney Ted Watts' invoices.

The suit alleged the school district was withholding financial information from the board and that board members do not have access to financial invoices before they vote on them. 

Crawford County Common Pleas Court Judge John Spataro ordered DeFrancesco could view past and future school board invoices. The court denied a request to order current invoices be made available.

DeFrancesco revealed the fees totaled about $30,000.

Watts, who was at Thursday's meeting, said he couldn't comment legally. He suggested the board seek a legal opinion before voting on DeFrancesco's request.

Board member Tim Brown said he had further questions for DeFrancesco but didn't think it was "the proper time to ask them."

Board member Robert Gulick disagreed with further discussion and said he would vote no.

Board President Mark Gerow asked if PENNCREST Superintendent Timothy Glasspool could seek a legal opinion from an independent attorney and discuss the opinion in executive session before the school board's Oct. 10 voting meeting. Upon receiving the legal advice, the board is expected to vote on the motion at the voting meeting.

Glasspool admitted it may be a challenge to find an independent law firm by the next meeting, but he agreed to Gerow's request.

DeFrancesco then withdrew his motion on the premise that the board would seek an independent legal opinion.

DeFrancesco also made a separate motion in favor of a resolution supporting state House Bill 76 and state Senate Bill 76. The bills would replace the school property tax with an increase in sales tax and personal income tax.

Board members Jason Bakus and Brown voiced their agreement with certain parts of the bills, having looked them over, but Brown was wary of voting on something quickly without further research and in-depth reading. Brown was also concerned about how money would be disbursed to the districts at the same level, and Bakus noted the board would no longer have the power to raise or lower taxes if either of the discussed bills was passed by the state.

DeFrancesco ultimately agreed to withdraw his motion on the resolution supporting the bills as Brown requested more time to read the proposed bills.

Tyler Dague can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at tdague@meadvilletribune.com.

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