Pa. attorney general will not review Penn Hills School District grand jury report
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro will not review a grand jury report regarding Penn Hills School District finances, according to a letter received by the district.
A two-year grand jury investigation by the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office faulted school officials and board members for plunging the district into financial ruin but found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Current board President Erin Vecchio and other district officials decided that was unacceptable.
They sent a letter to Shapiro’s office on Feb. 26 requesting that it “make an independent determination on any criminality that may have taken place.”
Vecchio said she received a response, dated March 20 and signed by Executive Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Selber, declining the request.
“As can often be the case, financial mismanagement was found, but no criminal charges resulted from any investigations,” the response letter read. “While we appreciate your inquiry, the Office of (the) Attorney General does not review the investigative and prosecutorial work or discretionary decisions of other prosecutors’ offices in the absence of a new, compelling, and specific reason to do so.”
The district’s debt is about $172 million and climbing, mostly to pay off debt for high school and elementary construction.
The grand jury report was released Feb. 5.
It cited concerns over possible ethics violations and conflicts of interest, but it did not address possible criminal actions outlined in a report by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released in May 2016.
Vecchio said she’s disappointed with the attorney general’s response and plans to see whether higher government authorities can be of assistance.
“I am not giving up on this,” Vecchio said. “If I have to write to the president of the United States to do something, I’m going to do it. How do you justify to these taxpayers that nobody was criminally charged? (Shapiro’s) the lead prosecutor in the state. Somebody has to do something here. What message are you sending to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania? That you can rob the school districts and get away with it?”
DePasquale said at a town hall meeting in late February that Penn Hills was in the worst financial shape of any school district he’s seen, and it would be nearly impossible to turn it around without Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration and lawmakers stepping up to bail it out.
Shapiro’s office did not return messages seeking comment.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .