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Schmotzer says he got things done in Baldwin-Whitehall job

| Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, 11:45 p.m.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Baldwin-Whitehall board member Martin Schmotzer listens to proceedings during a board meeting Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013 at the school district office.

Martin Michael Schmotzer said he made a big impact on the Baldwin-Whitehall School District in the short time he worked as special assistant to the superintendent, a $120,000 job the school board established and gave him without an interview.

Among the accomplishments he listed: getting a French drain fixed, hanging some pictures and calling district patrons back.

“I was starting to get things done,” said Schmotzer, 57, of Whitehall.

He listed nearly 25 projects he said he completed in the last two weeks while working as supervisor of special projects for the school board and special assistant to the superintendent. “In two weeks, I accomplished a lot for this district.”

Schmotzer resigned from his controversial post on Wednesday afternoon. Later Wednesday, Schmotzer was sworn in to a new, four-year term on the board, which he won in the Nov. 5 election. Schmotzer has been on the board off and on for 27 years. He resigned from the board on Nov. 19 just before the board appointed him to the position.

During his brief tenure, Schmotzer said he got email addresses of board members published online, posted job descriptions on the district's website, ensured the district's newsletter was sent to a printer and conducted a visual inspection of all school buildings.

Brian Rampolla, 56, of Whitehall suggested providing contact information for board members online, Schmotzer said.

Rampolla said he called the district the day after Schmotzer was hired as assistant to the superintendent to ask how he could reach board members to express his dismay.

He was told that contact information was private. Schmotzer returned Rampolla's call.

“Getting the emails up there, anybody could have done that,” Rampolla said. “I don't give him any credit at all. That's not worth $120,000.”

When Schmotzer resigned, he cited “personal and political attacks” on his family. It wasn't clear Thursday whether the board would hire someone else to fill the position. Superintendent Randal Lutz did not return calls.

More than 250 people showed up at Wednesday night's board reorganization meeting to express their dismay at Schmotzer's hiring, and pressed for him to stay off the board. A petition with more than 1,300 signatures seeking his ouster from the administrative position was presented to the board.

Schmotzer said Thursday that he has no plans to quit the board. He said his administrative job was important because the district has no director of operations, and the board has just a part-time secretary.

“It wasn't the job title. It wasn't the money. It wasn't the position,” Schmotzer said of the controversy. “It was because the people couldn't see past that it was me. They could not see past somebody on the board getting a position.”

Some residents questioned Schmotzer's hiring because of his background. In 1996, he 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. His record was expunged in 2006.

The people who are rallying against him, Schmotzer said, are “losers of school board elections.”

“They want to take the board over by bullying,” he said. “If they want to be on this board, I suggest they learn how to run for office and propose some ideas.”

He said he wishes his tenure had ended differently.

“I'm sorry that it blew up like it did,” he said. “I will not put the school district that I love in the position that it's being put in.”

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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