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Bay Path returning $250K to towns


December 08, 2010
CHARLTON — Finances dominated the brief Bay Path School Committee discussions Monday, Dec. 6, as the panel unanimously approved returning $249,694 to its member towns, among other things.

That money came from the state's certification of the district's excess and deficiency account (equivalent to a town's free cash), which found Bay Path had more than the legally allowed 5 percent in it. Most of the funds came from $1.3 million in a court-ordered insurance payment closing out the legal aftermath of the embezzlement conviction of ex-business manager Paul Blanchette.

"He went to jail for seven years for what he did and we put it behind us and moved on," said Superintendent David Papagni.

In January 2001, Blanchette pleaded guilty to stealing $5.46 million from the school and five counts of federal tax evasion, using the funds to buy a horse racing stable, real estate and other assets. As part of his penalty, he agreed to return "any remaining proceeds of his crimes" and provide full restitution.

"Over a period of at least seven years, Blanchette siphoned millions of dollars from the school's operating accounts into the school's student activity account," stated a 2001 U.S. Attorney's case summary at www.thefreelibrary.com. "[He] then wrote checks to himself from the student activity account, over which he had exclusive control. To finance his massive embezzlement, Blanchette surreptitiously rolled-over 'revenue anticipation loans,' which were supposed to be used for the school's short-term cash flow needs."

Papagni said the towns officially got that money back last year. The new assessment reduction means each of the 10 sending communities will get an amount equal to their share of the district's student population — ranging from Paxton's low of $8,154 to Southbridge's high of $51,681.

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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