As the first guilty pleas were entered by five of the 20 Bensalem School District employees charged with various thefts from the district’s bus garage, Bensalem Democrats were quick to levy the blame on the Republican-controlled School Board.
“The Republicans are dead-on when they say this isn’t a partisan issue,” said Janie Mackenzie-Cohen, spokesperson for the Bensalem Democrats. “It was, however, the policies of the Republican-controlled School Board that allowed this massive theft, which spanned more than a decade, to occur in the first place.”
According to Bob James, Deputy District Attorney for Bucks County, the School District lost between $500,000 and $1 million in supplies, such as tires, batteries and vehicle parts, which police allege were stolen and resold to local businesses. Some of the employees were also charged with taking paychecks for work they never performed.
He added that there are “probably more arrests coming down the road.”
According to Mackenzie-Cohen, the School Board should have implemented better preventative measures years ago.
“By adding procedures as simple as itemized accounting and requiring two Board Members to sign-off on the checks, we could have put the brakes on these crimes before they were even committed,” Mackenzie-Cohen said. “These are the sort of common sense changes we’re seeking to bring to the School Board so we can ensure that every citizen of Bensalem is protected, no matter who they voted for in the last election.”
Susan Phy, Community Relations Liaison for the School District, said that the School Board responded appropriately to the thefts, and that the “District’s response is in no way partisan in nature.”
“Since early fall, the entire Board has had the opportunity to review and approve every single check prior to their release,“ Phy said, noting that other new systems have been put into effect. “The Bensalem Township School District, in a timely manner, referred these matters to the appropriate authorities and has and will continue to cooperate with Township and County law enforcement in every way.”
Phy added that the Superintendent and new Business Manager have worked with the Board to ensure “best practices.”
Four of the five School Board positions are up for grabs in this year’s election, which will be held Nov. 5.
— Ted Bordelon