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Ex-district chief gets a month's house arrest

Penn-Delco's Leslye S. Abrutyn pleaded no contest to a conflict of interest. She was fined $15,000.

The former superintendent of the Penn-Delco School District was sentenced to house arrest and fined $15,000 yesterday in connection with a secret investment in a day-care company that operated in district schools.

Leslye S. Abrutyn, 58, of Lower Merion, was ordered to serve one month's house arrest and 11 months on probation. She was also ordered to perform 120 hours of community service.

The sentencing came after she pleaded no contest in Delaware County Court.

Abrutyn was charged with a conflict of interest for not disclosing her financial interest in Quick Start Preschools on statements to the state Ethics Commission.

She also was charged with hindering prosecution by lying to investigators.

The preschool had a contract with Abrutyn's district since 2005. The district terminated its contract with Quick Start after the investigation was disclosed this year.

As part of her plea, she agreed to cooperate fully with law enforcement and testify if needed in the case against former Board President Keith Charles Crego.

"Mrs. Abrutyn has insight into this case that only she can provide," said Delaware County Assistant District Attorney Gregory Hurchalla.

Crego, 37, of Aston, allegedly set up Quick Start Preschools in 2005.

He is accused of using his influence to get board approval for the Quick Start contract and then demanding nearly $40,000 from the woman running the preschool.

Abrutyn knew about the scheme but nevertheless invested $10,000 after Crego reportedly threatened to withhold any positive recommendations to a future employer, according to court documents. She received a 10 percent share in the company.

For most of yesterday's proceeding, Abrutyn, who spent 10 years as superintendent, stood beside her attorney, Brian McMonagle. Her voice cracked as she told Common Pleas Court Judge Barry C. Dozer she was "very, very sorry."

"Undoubtedly, you know you have failed your oath of office," said Dozer. "You have failed in your obligation as an educator."

Dozer said her actions had "shaken the Penn-Delco School District."

Abrutyn had asked to be allowed to enter a program for nonviolent first-time offenders.

The District Attorney's Office denied the request. Those who complete the program usually have their court record expunged.

McMonagle called his client "apologetic, remorseful and devastated" and said her life had been turned upside down in the last year.

In February, Abrutyn's husband, Elias Abrutyn, an associate provost and associate dean of academic affairs at Drexel University College of Medicine, died of a heart attack.

Leslye Abrutyn abruptly resigned as superintendent in July.

She was paid $196,520 for the 2006-07 school year.

For her community service, Abrutyn will work with delinquent and truant juveniles in Delaware County, helping them with reading skills, resume preparation and interview techniques.

Crego, who resigned from the board in late 2006 after an exchange of domestic-abuse allegations with his girlfriend, a former school board member, also is facing drug and theft charges. Police found steroids and Ecstasy in his home safe, and he is accused of bilking a friend and newly hired school district employee of $1,000 for an annuity program that did not exist.

His next court appearance is set for Jan. 14.

John Green, another board member, has been sentenced to 18 months' probation in an unrelated case.