SCRANTON — According to personnel records obtained by Newswatch 16, former Special Education Supervisor Lee Carr got $12,000 worth of health insurance that she didn’t immediately pay for after she retired in 2012.
Records show former School District Solicitor Harry McGrath received more than $27,000 worth of health insurance after he was fired in 2011.
“I had no idea it was that much,” said Scranton School Board Chairwoman Kathleen McGuigan.
Both workers were on the COBRA insurance plan, which is a federal mandate that people who leave their jobs can continue to receive an organization’s health insurance for up to 18 months. But the ex-workers also have to pay the entire monthly cost of the premiums.
Board Member Lyn Ruane is especially concerned about former Solicitor Harry McGrath, and the $27,000 worth of insurance that got without paying while he was on the COBRA plan.
McGrath is the head of the Lackawanna Democratic Party, and Ruane wonders if his influence in the community was why his health insurance coverage was paid for after he left the district.
“I`m outraged by that,” said Ruane. “Quite frankly he and his family were allowed to receive benefits on the Scranton taxpayers’ backs.”
Board members say McGrath, a prominent lawyer, should have known he was not entitled to get his insurance paid for.
Our investigation found McGrath was warned four times to pay for the coverage himself.
“It`s clear from what you showed me that he obviously ignored those letters for quite some time.” said McGuigan. “I don`t know if he thought it was just going to go away.”
McGrath would not make himself available for comment despite several visits and phone calls to his downtown Scranton office.
Scranton School Superintendent Bill King says he had no idea this went on for almost two years, until a staffer made him aware in march.
“The minute I found out, I said, ‘Whoa!’ That can`t happen,’” said King.
King says then demanded action from human resources, and in March McGrath and Lee Carr paid back the district for all the coverage they had received.
“Obviously it`s not anything any of us are proud of,” said Superintendent King. “We`re in difficult times. We`re not in a position to be handing out free health care to any employees. Or former employees.”
The superintendent says he can’t answer how the two workers were allowed to receive health insurance at no cost without his knowledge.
Meantime, the Scranton School Board launched an investigation, to see if 60-70 other former district employees on the COBRA plan, are also getting their health insurance paid for.
The investigation to see if other school district employees are getting their health insurance paid for, is being done by an independent auditor.
We also checked with several of the larger school districts in our area. And all told us their solicitors do not get health insurance benefits.
Also, Harry McGrath’s successor in the Scranton district, Attorney John Minora, does not receive those benefits.