The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

March 4, 2013

Details emerge in Repak ouster

Authority provides files regarding case

JOHNSTOWN — Ousted Johnstown Redevelopment Authority chief Ronald Repak and former administrative assistant Deborah Walter signed up to help Conemaugh Health System develop a technology park in 2004, when the project was first proposed in Richland Township.

Documents obtained by The Tribune-Democrat show Repak and Walter, working through an agreement with Diversified Development Technologies, continued to bill Conemaugh for services after the project moved to the former Sani-Dairy property in Johnstown. The payments continued until 2007, when the health system’s internal investigation terminated Diversified’s agreement.

Although the Jan. 12, 2004, agreement was signed by then-Conemaugh Vice President Tom Kurtz and Von Fisher of Diversified, the health system’s investigation showed it was authorized by then-CEO Dr. Richard Salluzzo. Some later invoices went through former Conemaugh executive Michael Lauf.

Salluzzo was president and CEO of the Conemaugh Health System and Memorial Medical Center from June 1999 until November 2004, when he took a similar position at Wellmont Health System in western Virginia and eastern Tennessee. He went from there to Cape Cod Healthcare Inc. in Hyannis, Mass., in July 2008 and resigned that CEO job in November 2010. A year later, he was disciplined by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine for using drugs prescribed to others.

Kurtz left Conemaugh in January 2008, two months after the internal investigation report was presented to the health system board. Kurtz is now president and CEO of Windber Research Institute.

Lauf followed Salluzzo to Wellmont and then to Cape Cod, where he was named CEO after Salluzzo stepped down.

Neither Salluzzo nor Kurtz could immediately be reached for comment.

Lauf said he had no information about the investigation and did not comment on how much Conemaugh leadership knew about Repak’s apparent conflict of interests, but stressed all approvals went through Conemaugh’s protocols.

“Ethics are first and foremost in my world,” Lauf said in a telephone interview from Cape Cod. “We operated within the parameters as set up by Conemaugh.”

The investigation report by attorneys Stephen Birek and James R. Walsh was presented Nov. 13, 2007, to the directors of Conemaugh Enterprises Inc., the subsidiary overseeing the tech park development.

“The only individuals who personally dealt with (Conemaugh) or its affiliates, as agents of (Diversified Development Technologies), were Ron Repak and Debora (sic) Walter,” the report said.

The investigators go on to say, “Questions exist as to whether ... the services being provided by Ron Repak and/or Deborah Walter were being provided as agents of DDT or in their capacity as employees of the (Johnstown Redevelopment Authority).”

Sources say the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority board was provided a copy of the investigation report in 2011, after the board had information about a federal investigation. To avoid interfering with the federal authorities, Repak was allowed to remain on the job, but his job was severely limited by the board’s August 2010 resolution. That action removed Repak from involvement in the Johnstown Regional Sewage operation and tightened the rules on gifts and outside reimbursement for employees.

No information has been released on the federal probe.

Repak has, likewise, been out of the loop on the authority’s Aspen project to bring a frack water treatment facility to authority-owned Rosedale Business Park. In a December 2012 interview with The Tribune-Democrat, Repak said he could not discuss Aspen and asked what the reporter had been told about the project by Msgr. Raymond Balta, the authority’s chairman.

Asked why Repak was allowed to remain on the job, collecting his $92,828 salary, Balta said, “I don’t have anything to say.”

Copies of the Conemaugh investigation, the 2010 resolution and 35 invoices paid by Conemaugh were among documents provided by the redevelopment authority in response to a request filed by The Tribune-Democrat under the state Open Records Law.

Invoices totalled $133,507.90 between April 2004 and June 2007. The bills ranged from $1,487 to $7,866.

Documents also included a copy of a business card with Deborah Walter’s name and the heading, “Strategic Consulting, Redevelopment Specialists.”

There were also updates on the work. While most of the memos were listed as from “Diversified Development Staff,” two 2004 updates had Repak’s name as the sender. The memo says Repak was working on an application, apparently for state funding.

Investigators learned that Diversified was actually part of Pittsburgh-based K.U. Resources Inc. The company is headed by David R. Kerschner and Mark Urbassik. Its website says it provides “customized solutions and outstanding support in environmental management and site development engineering.”

Neither corporate officer could be reached for comment.

Von Fisher, who signed the original agreement, was reached at his environmental consulting business, Von Fisher Associates Inc. of Pittsburgh.

“I am not sure if I am allowed to speak, depending on what type of investigation is going on,” Fisher said. “So I will have no comment.”

 

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