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State Ethics Investigation Found PPS Superintendent Was ‘Negligent,’ Board Is Seeking Resolution

Courtesy of Pittsburgh Public Schools
Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet.

On today’s program: Education reporter Sarah Schneider puts the finding of a state ethics investigation into Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent into context; McKees Rocks is getting $2.3 million from the state to address blight, but one council member hopes to simultaneously build affordable housing; and a look at the 50 year anniversary of the Pirates debuting a lineup of all players of color.

Hamlet says he was "vindicated" by a state ethics investigation
(0:00 - 7:00)

The Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission found that Pittsburgh Public School Superintendent Anthony Hamlet violated state ethics laws.

“With this review behind me, it looks like a fresh start, and I’m welcoming this school year as we start this and this cloud is over,” said Hamlet in a press conference last Thursday.

Although the ethics investigation is done, the school board is still considering the findings and possibly Hamlet’s future.

“The board has several options,” says WESA education reporter Sarah Schneider. “Right now they’re not talking about what those options are but everything’s on the table, and that could mean anything from a letter of reprimand for the superintendent or potential firing.”

The PPS board met twice last week in private sessions, and there are more meetings to come this week, according to the board’s solicitor Ira Weiss. Board members have not yet spoken publicly about the report’s findings.

City Controller Michael Lamb filed the complaint that started the investigation and initially released a brief statement on the findings.

Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb told WESA on Tuesday that he doesn’t envy the position the board is in, but that they must make administrative changes. Lamb said he received a letter on Aug. 20, 2020 stating that Hamlet had received the findings of the investigation. Therefore he knew of the findings when the board was negotiating a contract that it did renew for a five-year period.

“I think the idea of Superintendent Hamlet staying on is ridiculous. Given the seriousness of these charges, given the pattern of wrongdoing here, I don’t think the school board has a choice but to terminate him,” he said.

“For him to come out and say ‘I feel vindicated’ is so out of touch and unaware. And then to make the excuse that it was a clerical error because of his assistant is just a horrible example of leadership and just another reason he should not be in the position he is in, in my opinion,” Lamb said.

Hamlet will have to pay the district up to $8,000 in reimbursement for improper travel and forfeit 14 vacation days. Hamlet has said he sent in a $3,000 check already to reimburse the district.

McKees Rocks is using state money to rehabilitate blighted properties
(7:08 - 17:11) 

The commonwealth is providing $2.3 million in grants to McKees Rocks to fight blight.

The borough itself received two grants totaling $1.3 million dollars. McKees Rocks Borough Council President Archie Brinza says the borough has so far identified ten homes to address with the funding.

“In our first stage... we are getting all these homes ready to get rehabilitated and to get back put on the market for first-time homebuyers,” says Brinza. “We need to get people in here and we need to get affordable housing.”

The McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation (MRCDC) received a million-dollar grant to address the former Cathode Ray Tube facility site, which is in the former Bank of McKees Rocks building.

“There are 4,000 cathode ray tube televisions currently packed into a beautiful anchor building in Downtown McKees Rocks,” says Taris Vrcek, executive director of MRCDC. “The most immediate concern, though, is one of safety. The building is in disrepair, the roof has begun to fail.”

Vrcek says the grant will be used to clear out the television sets and rehabilitate the building as early as next year.

Pittsburgh Pirates’ first all Black and Latino lineup took place 50 years ago
(17:20 - 22:30)

In October 1971, the Pittsburgh Pirates won baseball’s World Series. But just weeks earlier, the club recorded another milestone, one that still resonates 50 years later.

90.5 WESA’s Bill O’Driscoll has the story of the major leagues’ first starting lineup of all Black and Latino players.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Updated: August 31, 2021 at 12:01 PM EDT
This story was updated to include information from a follow-up interview with Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb.
Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
Rebecca Reese is a production assistant for The Confluence.
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