SALEM SCHOOLS District places assistant on paid suspension

No formal accusations have been made against the assistant treasurer or the former treasurer, but the district says it is investigating complaints.
SALEM -- Allegations of misconduct led to a city school district employee's being placed on indefinite paid suspension.
Annette Howard, 42, of Conser Drive, was placed on the status Monday by Superintendent Dr. David Brobeck.
Howard, whose job title is assistant to the treasurer, declined to comment today on a letter from Brobeck, released Thursday by the school district. The letter notifies her of the suspension from her $36,000-a-year job.
The action follows the sudden resignation in December of Treasurer Ted Cougras and comes amid an investigation into school finances by the state auditor's office and the Columbiana County Prosecutor's Office.
"This letter is to inform you that allegations of misconduct have been made against you," says Brobeck's letter to Howard.
The letter also says that an investigation related to the allegations has been undertaken and that it may be concluded by mid-January.
Citing the ongoing investigation, Brobeck declined to comment on the allegations or who is making them.
He previously stated that Howard's suspension was implemented on the advice of the school's legal counsel, Whalen & amp; Compton of Akron, and on the advice of investigators with the state auditor's office and county prosecutor's office.
The investigation
Investigators are trying to determine if Howard had any involvement in financial misdealing being probed after Cougras' departure, Brobeck has said.
Investigators also want to ensure that Howard has no impact on the probe into district finances, Brobeck said.
He noted that the decision to suspend Howard did not require board action and is something he is allowed to do on his own.
Neither Howard nor Cougras have been charged with or accused of any crimes.
Howard was hired by the school district in October 1993. Before being named assistant to the treasurer in January 2001, she served as a superintendent's secretary.
Her duties as assistant to the treasurer included processing purchase orders.
Howard is one of four employees in the treasurer's office.
Her position is considered nonsupervisory.
Cougras resigned his $72,237-a-year job Dec. 16 after prosecutor's office representatives visited school administration offices on Dec. 13.
The officials seized documents they said were related to Cougras' March purchase of $781 in office equipment, which was delivered to his Poland home.
The items, an office chair and mats, were paid for with a school district check.
Cougras reimbursed the district for the purchase after school officials learned of it Dec. 5.
The school board met in special session Thursday to authorize hiring two people for the treasurer's office.
Nancy Radkin of Kensington will serve as interim treasurer.
Lois Allard of East Palestine was hired as a treasurer's assistant.
The board has yet to set their salaries.

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