by Ron Gregory
CHARLESTON – A Mingo Central Comprehensive High School assistant principal has entered into a conciliation agreement with the state Ethics Commission, according to a press release from the commission. The agreement has resulted in a public reprimand, a $2,000 fine and a requirement that the assistant principal attends Ethics Act training.
Marcella Charles-Casto voluntarily admitted to making purchases through the Mingo County school system for personal items. The conciliation agreement outlines the charges against Charles-Casto. They appear to be eerily similar to charges against a former Logan County school superintendent.
Charles-Casto has been an assistant principal at Mingo Central since 2011. Prior to that, she was principal at Matewan High School from 2004 to 2011. By virtue of her employment, the commission determined that she was either a “public official” or “public employee” for purposes of the Ethics Act.
The Mingo assistant became engaged to Bryan Casto on October 25, 2015, according to the agreement.
As part of her job responsibilities, Charles-Casto made purchases for the Career Technical Education Center. She had previously ordered chair covers and decorations for events catered by the Pro Start program and for graduation ceremonies. She performed similar duties at Matewan High.
The school colors used for athletic events, commencement exercises and related events at MCCHS were Carolina blue, silver and black. Other seasonal colors, such as orange and brown, were also used at these events.
On February 2, 2016, she purchased various colors of chair covers, table covers, chair bands and sashes totaling $974 from Your Chair Covers Inc. via the Internet using the board’s BB&T purchasing card. Items ordered included 60 ivory colored chair covers, 60 blush colored spandex chair bands, 60 silver covered chair sash slips/napkin rings, 10 ivory colored table covers and four blush colored table covers. The chair covers cost $2.99 each; for a total of $179.40. The chair bands were $1.04 each, or $62.40. The sash slips/napkin rings were 71 cents each; for a total of $42.60. Each table cover cost $18.74; for a total of $262.36. All of the items came to $546.76.
The items were delivered to Charles-Casto’s attention at MCCHS. Charles-Casto and Bryan Casto were married on May 21, 2016 in Dandridge, Tennessee. There, 194 items of those listed as purchased by the board were used in the wedding exercises. Only ten of the items had previously been used by the board or MCCHS. After using the items at the wedding, Charles-Casto returned them to Mingo Central, where they are presently located.
Neither when the items were purchased nor at the time of the wedding did either MCCHS or the Mingo board have a policy that permitted employees to borrow school property. Nevertheless, evidence gathered by the commission revealed that, before the wedding, there had been past occurrences when staff members and friends of staff borrowed linen and chair covers owned by MCCHS for their personal use.
Charles-Casto admitted that she violated West Virginia Code provisions 6B-2-5(b)(1) and 158-6-5. She was ordered to pay the $2,000 in $250 installments beginning October 1 and ending May 1, 2019.
Ethics Commission Chair Robert J. Wolfe signed the conciliation agreement on behalf of the commission.
In the Logan County case, former School Superintendent Phyllis Doty was convicted last month on eight federal criminal counts after a week-long trial. She was found guilty of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud, two counts of theft from a program receiving federal funds and one count of identity theft.
In her case, the Doty jury found that the ex-superintendent purchased $12,000 in electronic communications equipment with school funds and either gave or sold them to family members.
The similarity to the Mingo case comes from the jury determining that Doty used $6,500 in school system money to buy items used as decorations at her son’s wedding in 2015. She had the items delivered to Chapmanville Middle School, telling the system purchasing director that the band director asked for them.
According to U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart, who prosecuted Doty, she tried to hide the purchase of the items.
While Charles-Casto will apparently only have to pay the $2,000 fine, and accept the training and reprimand, Doty faces up to 122 years in prison at her sentencing.