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Gateway school board investigation finds 'no improprieties'

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 10:00 p.m.

A private investigator was hired by the Gateway school board in November after some parents said football equipment was being used outside of district events.

“They just wanted to look at a few things, and everything was in order,” said Joseph Bellissimo, who did the investigation. “There were no improprieties.”

Bellissimo is listed as the director of investigations for the local branch of Corporate Security and Investigations, based in Monaca.

The district paid about $4,300 through Bruce Dice and Associates — which represents the district — to the private investigation firm for about four weeks of work in November and December, according to an invoice submitted by the law firm to the district.

Then-school board President Dave Magill and then-Vice President Steve O'Donnell decided to hire a private investigator, while conferring with the rest of the school board, O'Donnell said.

It's not the first time Gateway, or other neighboring school districts, have hired private investigators, Dice said.

A previous Gateway school board hired a private investigator to investigate Gateway students suspected of living outside the district, Dice said. A number of students were removed from the district as a result of the investigation, as reported by school officials at a board meeting in 2011.

It's not “unheard of” for a school board to hire a private detective, said Steve Robinson, spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Board Association. In 2008, a private investigator was hired by a school district in Montgomery County, to investigate students who were accused of living outside of the district.

Dice said it's common for local school districts to hire private investigators. His law firm represents several local districts.

“I've seen (private investigators) in almost every district we've been involved in, especially involved with students and where they live,” Dice said.

Meanwhile, a committee formed on the Gateway School Board has conducted its own investigation in recent months of the athletic department.

An audit of the athletic department was completed and planned for discussion at a school board meeting last night, school director Skip Drumheller said. The meeting occurred after the print deadline for this edition of The Times Express.

School directors Bob Elms, Skip Drumheller and O'Donnell make up the committee.

There were not any “groundbreaking” findings in the report, Drumheller said.

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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