Leslye Abrutyn, the former superintendent of the Penn-Delco School District, arrived at a Media courthouse yesterday morning dressed in black with a sullen face to match.
Her attire was appropriate. A felony conviction can be death to your career.
Abrutyn, once among Delaware County's most distinguished school administrators, pleaded no contest to a serious violation of the state ethics act and agreed to testify against former school board President Keith Crego at his upcoming trial.
She admitted to giving Crego a $10,000 cash payment in the parking lot of Pennell Elementary School in 2005 to become a silent partner in Quick Start Preschools. The company ran day-care programs for Penn-Delco children - and allegedly provided Crego with an undisclosed source of income.
Standing before Judge Barry Dozer, Abrutyn mustered only a five-word apology: "I am very, very sorry."
"Anything else?" Dozer asked.
She had nothing to add.
"You have failed your oath of office," Dozer scolded her. "You have violated your public duty."
Abrutyn also pleaded no contest - which has the same legal effect as a guilty plea - to a misdemeanor charge of providing false information to county authorities during a 10-month grand-jury investigation into corruption in Penn-Delco.
In October, school board member John Green was busted for voting to approve district payments to his employer, TempAir, and receiving a small cut of the money through sales commissions.
Green, 45, of Brookhaven, resigned from the board the next day - he is the ninth member to do so since mid-2006 - and pleaded no contest this month to a felony conflict-of-interest charge. He was sentenced to 18 months probation, a $2,500 fine and 40 hours of community service.
"This is a woman who dedicated three decades of her life to educating and helping children," said Abrutyn's attorney, Brian McMonagle. "It is my hope she will be remembered that way."
Abrutyn, 58, of Bala Cynwyd, was an assistant principal at Springfield High School prior to being named Penn-Delco's director of education in 1993. She served as superintendent from 1998 until abruptly resigning in July. In 2004, a new wing at Sun Valley High School was named in her honor.
After a short reprimand yesterday, Dozer acknowledged Abrutyn's previous accomplishments and good deeds.
"You will have that opportunity to do that again," the judge said of Abrutyn's past.
First, she'll have to pay a $15,000 fine and spend one month under house arrest, followed by 11 months parole. Abrutyn was also sentenced to 120 hours of community service, which Dozer said would include helping delinquent and truant juveniles acquire job-readiness skills.
As part of the negotiated plea, Abrutyn has agreed to testify against Crego, whom authorities say established Quick Start Preschools in 2005 and pocketed at least $39,000 of its profits. The company was so popular among parents that Crego allegedly told a former school board member that it "prints money like a printing press."
Crego, 37, resigned from the school board last year after an affair with a board member went bad and they filed protection-from-abuse orders against each other.
District Attorney G. Michael Green said yesterday that he was satisfied with the Abrutyn plea and expected her to be an "important witness" in Crego's trial.
Crego, the former vice chairman of the Aston GOP, is facing dozens of charges, including bribery, racketeering, theft, forgery, state ethics violations, possession of the drug Ecstasy and possession of anabolic steroids with the intent to distribute.
He is expected at a pre-trial conference next month before Dozer. *