NANTICOKE – Luzerne County Community College President Thomas Leary on Monday defended the school’s decision to fire one employee accused of theft while allowing a second employee also accused of stealing to remain on paid leave while a criminal investigation was ongoing.
Leary said the college took differing actions against Peter Paul Moses, who remained on paid leave as of Monday, and Raymond Vender, who was fired on Sept. 12, because the circumstances surrounding their cases differed.
Leary declined to detail the differences in the cases, saying he had a duty to maintain confidentiality regarding personnel issues. He adamantly denied Moses, a member of a prominent area family, received preferential treatment. Moses’ brother, John, is a well-known and politically influential attorney. Another brother, George, is a surgeon.
“There was absolutely no favoritism,” Leary said. “The circumstances dictated the different actions at different times. We had different information and each case was treated in the same, fair manner.”
Moses, 57, of Terrace Street, Wilkes-Barre, was charged Friday stealing more than $17,000 and two computers from the college. Police said Moses, an associate dean who oversaw the school’s cafeteria and several other departments, failed to turn over money he collected from the cafeteria on 13 occasions between Jan. 1, 2006, and Dec. 31, 2007.
Vender was operations manager for the college’s conference center kitchen. The college has not released details of Vender’s alleged theft. That case remains under investigation by Nanticoke police and the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office.
Moses has been on paid leave since Feb. 4, according to the college. That translates to roughly $48,681 in salary he has collected while off the job based on a pro-ration of his annual salary of $73,022.
Vender, whose salary was $52,141, was not placed on paid leave prior to his termination, Leary said.
Luzerne County Commissioners Stephen Urban and Maryanne Petrilla said they want an explanation as to why the cases were handled differently.
“I think the policy ought to be enforced uniformly at the college,” Urban said. “Why was one terminated before the investigation was complete and why was the other not?”
Petrilla said she wants to sit down with Leary to “find out the logic” behind the decisions.
“It seems inconsistent. I would hope there is a good reason for it,” Petrilla said.
Commissioner Greg Skrepenak, who sits on the college’s board of trustees, said he believes the difference in the cases is that Moses has continued to deny any wrongdoing, whereas Vender admitted the theft.
“He was caught in the act and offered no excuses,” Skrepenak said of Vender. “The termination was a mutual decision from what I understand.”
Skrepenak, Urban and Petrilla all agreed Moses should at a minimum be placed on unpaid leave pending the outcome of the criminal charges.
Leary said no decision has been made yet regarding Moses’ employment. He could not provide a time frame as to when that decision will be made.