The former general manager of Columbus City Schools’ public radio station was placed on probation Wednesday after admitting that he falsified invoices to hide the station’s debt from school district officials.
Dan Mushalko, 60, pleaded guilty to one count of telecommunications fraud, a low-level felony, in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.
Judge Dan Hawkins imposed two years of probation, plus a $500 fine and court costs for Mushalko, who resigned from WCBE (90.5 FM) in June after a months-long investigation into his efforts to conceal nearly $870,000 in debt, owed mostly to National Public Radio.
Probation was recommended by prosecuting and defense attorneys as part of a plea agreement.
“He didn’t profit from this,” Assistant Prosecutor Jeffrey Blake said. “There was no theft of this money.”
Mushalko did not make a statement in court.
The school district investigation revealed that the NPR affiliate station, which was supposed to be self-sustaining, couldn’t cover its bills. For years, Mushalko altered invoices to amounts low enough that he could pay them from the station’s reserves. He electronically submitted the false invoices to the district treasurer’s office, leading to the telecommunications fraud charge.
“The station appeared to be solvent when it wasn’t,” said Mushalko’s attorney, Steven Nolder.
In May, the Columbus Board of Education voted to use money from the district’s general education funds to pay off the debt. The district plans to fund the station through the current school year, then determine whether the station is worth keeping, and if so, how it will be operated.