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HERMITAGE, PA. Erie Diocese supports handling of Votino case



Published: Tue, July 3, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



'Everything was done the right way,' the vicar said.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

HERMITAGE, Pa. -- The Erie Catholic Diocese is pleased with how Kennedy Catholic High School handled the revelation that its boys basketball coach and dean of students was sexually involved with female students at the school.

"I think we were very happy with it," said the Rev. John Schultz, diocesan vicar for education, pointing out that diocesan officials were notified when the problem surfaced and were kept informed every step of the way.

The school also cooperated fully with the Mercer County district attorney's office and took its own action in a timely fashion.

Plea bargain: Joseph Votino, 44, who worked at the Catholic high school for nearly two decades, was arraigned Wednesday on a single count of corrupting the morals of a minor.

Authorities said he has signed a plea agreement in which he admits having lengthy sexual liaisons with three Kennedy female students that began when the girls were 17.

One of those affairs was in the spring of 2000 and two occurred this spring, authorities said.

Votino has waived his right to a preliminary hearing and his next court appearance will be before a common pleas judge. No date has been set for that hearing and he remains free on his own recognizance.

Disorderly conduct report: Meanwhile, Brookfield Township police said they had a report of disorderly conduct involving Votino outside his home shortly before 11 p.m. Sunday.

A Sharon woman told police she stopped on the street in front of a friend's residence and Votino came up to her car, shouted obscene language at her, banged on her car and told her to leave the area.

Police said Votino later admitted approaching the vehicle and banging on the windows. He said he thought the occupants were reporters watching his house.

Police said no charges were filed.

Corrupting morals case: Peter Iacino, Kennedy Catholic president, said he learned of possible violations by Votino from a tip to a child abuse hot line March 30 and began his own investigation April 2.

Votino denied involvement with any student at the time, Iacino said.

Evidence: Iacino said he had gathered sufficient information within a week, however, to show that Votino had violated the law and he suspended the coach/dean of students April 9.

That was the same day he turned his information over to the district attorney's office. Votino was fired from his school posts May 17.

"Everything was done the right way," Schultz said, indicating the diocese supports Iacino's actions.

He said he isn't aware of any plans to change the administration of the school, although that would be a decision made by Bishop Donald Trautman. The bishop is on vacation this week.

Schultz said he doesn't know of any mandated operational changes that might be handed down from the diocese to Kennedy. The diocese is aware that Iacino intends to make some changes, including the elimination of volunteer student aides in all but the principal's central office, he said.

At least two of the students involved with Votino worked as volunteer aides in his office, authorities said.

gwin@vindy.com




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