City District Superintendent To Repay District For Five State Ethics Violations
Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet must pay nearly $8,000 — $7,000 of which must go to the district — and forfeit 14 vacation days valued at $12,300 for five ethics violations since he was hired in 2016.
A 147-page ethics report was published on Thursday morning and found that he violated the state’s ethics act related to travel expenses, accepting money for appearances related to his position and failing to disclose financial interests for three years.
Hamlet addressed the investigation on Thursday morning during a press conference. He said the investigation found no wrongdoing and was a “great day” for him because it has hung over his head for years and he wasn’t legally allowed to speak on the matter. He said he did nothing wrong and that the report vindicated him.
“With this review behind me, it looks like a fresh start,” Hamlet said.
Hamlet’s lawyer, David Berardinelli, said the parties intentionally used the word “negligent” in the findings because “no finding of intentional wrongdoing or misconduct is made.” He also noted that the word “fine” was not used in the report and that Hamlet had sent a reimbursement check for nearly $3,000 to PPS Thursday morning.
Berardinelli said Hamlet did not do anything intentionally wrong and that processes and procedures tracking Hamlet’s vacation time and financial disclosure have and will be implemented within the district. Administrative assistants, for example, will no longer track vacation time. New training procedures also will be put in place to help administrators who must file financial disclosure forms with the state, he said.
“Dr. Hamlet’s primary objective in working to resolve this matter with the commission was to make sure the district was made whole. That’s been accomplished,” Berardinelli said.
The two-year investigation concluded a month ago. Hamlet was given until Wednesday to refute the findings. City Controller Michael Lamb, who filed the complaint that launched the investigation, confirmed Wednesday evening that the investigation had been completed.
After the investigation was published, Lamb thanked the commission, noting that the report confirmed “much of what we suspected” and implied that Hamlet should no longer lead the district.
“The Pittsburgh Board of Public Education must now make appropriate changes to leadership to allow the district to get back to the important business of focusing on student achievement. City families and children deserve nothing less,” Lamb said in a statement Thursday.
Wednesday’s investigation is not the first time Hamlet has been in the spotlight for his conduct as PPS superintendent.
Hamlet’s hiring in 2016 was surrounded by controversy, when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette found that he had plagiarized language in his resume and cover letter. But following a special meeting, the board moved forward with Hamlet, saying that an internal investigation satisfied their concerns.
In 2019, Hamlet and six other administrators took an unauthorized side trip to Cuba during an all-expenses-paid trip to Florida. The domestic trip was approved by then-board president Lynda Wrenn, though she said she did not know that the trip would include a foreign trip, which would have required the approval of the full board. The trip was paid for by the nonprofit The Flying Classroom, with which the district had contracted for its academic programming.
The unauthorized trip prompted a third-party investigation paid for by the district, which cost about $142,000, according to a WPXI investigation. Board members would not comment when the private investigation concluded.
That prompted Lamb, who has auditing authority over the district, to file a complaint with the State Ethics Commission after he received multiple tips of fraud.
Below are the five violations published in the investigation:
- Negligent receipt of travel expense reimbursements for travel expenses, which already had been paid by the district, resulting in a private pecuniary benefit.
- Negligent utilization of leave for days when he was absent from the district for non-district related travel and was subsequently paid for such days, and when he carried over unused vacation/personal days for certain district employees including himself from one school year to the next when his contract prohibited carrying over vacation/personal days as to him.
- Deficient statements of financial interests for 2016, 2017, and 2018.
- Technical violation of the state ethics act when Hamlet accepted honoraria in recognition of appearances, speeches and/or presentations that were directly related to his public occupation.
- While Hamlet denies having committed a violation of the ethics act with a trip with The Flying Classroom, he agrees that if this matter went to hearing, the investigation division could find that he violated the ethics act.