Cafeteria manager put his dog in line for school food

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Gabriel Shane Paulick, an employee of Nutrition Inc. who managed the cafeterias in the Ringgold School District for eight years, has two daughters.

But on his applications for the reduced-price school lunch program in the district, authorities said, he listed a third child.

Her name? Karla.

Big mistake.

Debbie Kendra, head of the cafeteria system for the district, recognized that name.

"She said, 'Wait a minute, that's his dog,' " said Tim Berggren, the district's solicitor. "If he had put down any other name, he might never have been caught."

Authorities in Washington County yesterday charged Mr. Paulick, 36, of New Eagle with theft and criminal solicitation in connection with a scheme that ended up costing the district a total of $10,818 in 2007, 2008 and part of 2009.

State police said Mr. Paulick filled out false applications for free and reduced lunches for his children by making up the fake child using his dog's name. Karla Paulick became his third daughter, increasing his number of dependents and qualifying his real children for reduced-price lunches. He received a total of $1,723 in food for his kids because of the lie. State police said he admitted it.

He is also charged with encouraging other cafeteria employees and parents in the district to lie on their applications by falsifying their income so their children qualified for reduced lunches, a federal program administered by the state.

Those district workers who followed his advice -- five are identified in court documents -- have been fired, said Superintendent Gary Hamilton. All have reimbursed the district.

Four of them -- Amy Walters, Patricia David, Cindy Arnold and Rose Satter -- are identified in the affidavit. Ms. Satter's theft totalled just $381 in food, according to the charges, but Ms. Walters and Ms. David took more than $1,000 and Ms. Arnold more than $2,000.

Steve Toprani, the district attorney in Washington County, said the four cooperated with troopers in the case. All are witnesses against Mr. Paulick and have not been charged.

"This is an important investigation because it could potentially jeopardize funding for the food service program in that district," Mr. Toprani said. "I think that's what gives it its significance."

Ms. Kendra, director of the cafeteria system for the district since 2007, and Debra Mitchell, administrative assistant for Nutrition Inc., shared an office with Mr. Paulick and had many arguments with him about his attempts to convince district employees to lie on their applications.

"Kendra told Paulick that was wrong and he was going to get those people in trouble and himself into trouble," the affidavit says. "Paulick stated that no one checks the application information so there was nothing to worry about."

He was wrong, and one day the superintendent called Mr. Paulick to ask about Ms. David and another employee, Billie Jo Robinson, lying on applications. After the call, according to the affidavit, Mr. Paulick asked Ms. Kendra to lie if the superintendent asked about the fraud.

She refused and later turned over all the records of those employees she thought were lying.

Mr. Paulick was charged by summons through the office of District Judge Mark Wilson in Monongahela.


Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.


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