The man who ran Clairton for 11 years was sentenced Wednesday to be confined for 10 months for theft from the West Mifflin Area School District.
Ralph D. Imbrogno, 65, now of Elizabeth Township, was the manager of Clairton in 2009 when he worked with Patrick Risha, then superintendent of the district, to steer painting contracts to the painting business owned by his son, Anthony Imbrogno. Mr. Risha retired in 2009 and died in 2010.
U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon ordered that Imbrogno spend five months in a halfway house and another five months under home detention for theft from a program receiving federal funds, to which he pleaded guilty. Imbrogno also must pay the West Mifflin Area School District $94,439, or roughly half of what his son's painting business earned without submitting bids or through rigged processes.
"Defendant's bid-rigging scheme constituted a betrayal of the trust placed in him as a public official," Judge Bissoon said. She weighed that against his remorse and history of public service in sentencing him to less than the 10 to 16 months in prison suggested by federal guidelines.
"I'm very happy that West Mifflin is getting $94,000 back in restitution," said school board member Phil Shar, who attended the sentencing. "I think the judge's sentence was fair, and I hope this is the first of many dominoes to fall."
The painting contracts were initially below the $5,000 threshold requiring public bids, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn Bloch. Then, she said, "greed" took hold, and the contracts approached $10,000. Ralph Imbrogno had friends submit bogus bids that were always slightly higher than Anthony Imbrogno's price quotes.
The restitution is based on the total of the contracts that were awarded through rigged bids, and does not include the contracts for which no bidding was required. Ms. Bloch said that painting previously had been done by maintenance staff, and the paint was supplied by the district, so none of the money needed to be spent.
She said that Mr. Risha ordered district maintenance director Sandy Wells to direct contracts to Anthony Imbrogno. She added that business manager Dennis Cmar didn't know of the scheme, and in fact "started to question the legitimacy of these contracts."
"At the time that the activity was going on, I just didn't feel like I was doing anything wrong," Imbrogno told Judge Bissoon. "It was too good to be true, and it turned out it wasn't good."
The defendant's "motivation was solely to provide a painting contract for his son to get his business going," said Dan Konieczka, the attorney for Imbrogno.
Imbrogno was Clairton's manager until 2010. He is free until U.S. marshals order him to report to a halfway house. After his sentence, he will be on federal probation for three years.
Rich Lord: email@example.com, 412-263-1542 or Twitter @richelord.