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Schmotzer resigns high-paid administrative job with Baldwin-Whitehall

Resignation statement

After many heartfelt discussions with my family, friends and constituents, I have decided that it is in the best interest of the Baldwin-Whitehall School District for me to resign my position as Supervisor of Projects for the Board of School Directors and Special Assistant to the Superintendent, a professional employee. There is no question that the board's action to create this position and hire me was valid and well intended. The resolutions were thoroughly reviewed and approved by the solicitor's office.

Further, the legality of the action was confirmed to the media by Tim Eller from the Pennsylvania Department of Education in a newspaper article published in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Nov. 21, 2013. However, the political and personal attacks on me and my family are not worth continuing in this endeavor. Further, my decision to resign this position allows for the school district, which I love and have served for 26 years (11 years as a school director and 15 years as an advocate for children and taxpayers), to move forward with the education of the student body without political distraction. I want to personally thank the School Board Directors who had the confidence to appoint me to this position.

— Martin Schmotzer

(Editor's note: In a story published Nov. 23, Eller corrected his original statement that the hiring was legal.

“It appears to be an illegal appointment of an individual,” department spokesman Tim Eller told the Tribune-Review. The Public School Code says school board directors cannot be employed by their district “during the term for which he was elected or appointed.” The state interprets “during the term” to apply to all four years, even if directors have resigned, Eller said, meaning they can be hired only after their term has expired.)

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By Stephanie Hacke and Melissa Daniels
Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 2:36 p.m.
 

Amid raucous chants of “ho, ho, ho, Marty's got to go,” Martin Michael Schmotzer was sworn in to a four-year term on the Baldwin-Whitehall School Board on Wednesday night, hours after he resigned from a controversial board-appointed administrative post.

“The political and personal attacks on me and my family are not worth continuing in this endeavor,” Schmotzer explained in a statement.

The public outcry over his Nov. 19 appointment prompted as many as 250 residents to attend the reorganization session, forcing the meeting to be moved from the board's meeting chambers to the Whitehall Elementary School gymnasium.

“I'm happy that everybody is showing up,” said Whitehall resident Lou Rainaldi, 43, who started a petition seeking Schmotzer's ouster from his $120,000-a-year, five-year job as supervisor of special projects for the board of school directors and special assistant to the superintendent.

Rainaldi presented the petition with more than 1,200 signatures, which also sought for board members to be elected instead of appointed when vacancies arise, to board members.

“We need to still be here. We need to keep this going,” Rainaldi said.

Having Schmotzer resign from the position is just the first step, Rainaldi said. Next, if board members decide to keep the administrative position, it needs to be advertised and filled in an appropriate manner, he said.

“The board, as far as I'm concerned, has lost all integrity,” Rainaldi said. “I believe everybody on the board, except Tracy Macek, needs to be replaced.”

Superintendent Randal Lutz said he did not know whether the administrative position will remain.

Newly elected board members Karen Brown, David Solenday and Elliot Rambo were sworn in, along with Schmotzer.

“He resigned,” residents shouted as they learned that Schmotzer was being sworn in to a new term.

Schmotzer, 57, of Whitehall did not submit a resumé, nor was he interviewed for the assistant to the superintendent position that was established moments before his hiring, sparking outrage among community members.

Macek cast the only dissenting vote.

“After many heartfelt discussions with my family, friends and constituents, I have decided that it is in the best interest of the Baldwin-Whitehall School District for me to resign my position,” Schmotzer said in a statement.

Schmotzer's daughter stood by his side as he was sworn into office.

Near the end of the meeting, Schmotzer attempted to speak during the board comments. Residents shouted over him, calling on him to resign, then began leaving the meeting.

The public school code says a school board member cannot be employed by a district “during the term for which he was elected or appointed,” state Department of Education officials have said.

Baldwin-Whitehall solicitor Bruce Dice said Wednesday that he maintains Schmotzer's appointment was legal.

“This matter is moot at this point. He's resigned at this point,” Dice said. “My position is that it's no longer a matter to discuss.”

Baldwin Borough resident Marion Shannon filed a complaint in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court last week against Schmotzer and the district stating the appointment violated the state Public School Code and asking the court to ban him from working in the district until his term would have ended in December. It also said the board violated the Sunshine Act by holding prearranged meetings to discuss Schmotzer's appointment and salary.

Dice said that he does not believe a resident has the right to file such a claim against the district.

Shannon could not be reached for comment.

Schmotzer, who was appointed to the school board in December 2012 to fill a seat vacated by his brother, John, was elected on Nov. 5 to a four-year term.

In 1996, Schmotzer was charged with the theft of $50,000 from public accounts in the Allegheny County Clerk of Courts office while working as chief deputy for then-clerk Joyce Lee Itkin. He repaid the money. A judge tossed out one theft charge when Schmotzer pleaded guilty. Court delays prompted a state appellate court to dismiss his convictions on four other theft counts. Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning ordered his record expunged in 2006.

Stephanie Hacke and Melissa Daniels are staff writers for Trib Total Media.

 

 
 


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