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City School Board Weighs Options After Ethics Commission Cites Superintendent

Pittsburgh Public Schools Protest Signs Administration Building.jpg
Julia Zenkevich
90.5 WESA
Protesters placed signs in front of the Pittsburgh Public Schools administrative building in August after the district proposed delaying the start of the school year by two weeks.

Pittsburgh Public Schools board members emerged from a two-and-a-half-hour private discussion Thursday night without comment on the ramifications of a state report that cited Superintendent Anthony Hamlet for ethics violations.

The board met in executive session hours after Hamlet told the media that he did nothing wrong and that a two-year investigation by the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission found that he was negligent rather than intentional in violating the law. Hamlet was cited for five violations related to improper travel reimbursements, accepting money for public appearances and errors in required financial disclosure forms.

Hamlet’s lawyer, David Berardinelli, said the parties intentionally used the word “negligent” in the ethics commission report 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.

Board president Sylvia Wilson declined to comment Thursday night and referred questions to district Solicitor Ira Weiss. He said the board will reconvene soon to come to a resolution.

“The board has a wide range of options they can consider,” Weiss said, though he declined to elaborate.

City Controller Michael Lamb filed the initial complaint that led to the ethics commission investigation into Hamlet. In a statement Thursday, Lamb implied that the board should seek another leader.

“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.

The board renewed a five-year contract with Hamlet last August that contains a provision regarding a buyout. Weiss declined to discuss the clause after the meeting Thursday.

In January, the board also approved an $8,000 bonus for Hamlet, although at the time he said he wouldn’t accept the money until the teachers’ union had reached and signed a contract. District spokesperson Ebony Pugh said Thursday that she did not know if Hamlet had accepted the bonus, as the contract was ratified this week.

Sarah Schneider is WESA's education reporter. From early learning to higher education, Sarah is interested in students and educators working to create more equitable systems. Sarah previously worked with news outlets in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Idaho. She is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale where she worked for the school newspaper, the Daily Egyptian.