Investigators unsure if Pittsburgh school director’s name was forged on Amazon letter |
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Bob Bauder

A handwriting expert was unable to determine whether a Pittsburgh school board member signed a letter last year in support of the region’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters, according to a report released Friday.

Director Kevin Carter said he felt justified by the findings.

“I’m sad that we spent so much and it came back inconclusive, but I do feel justified with the investigator’s strong statement that it was not me who signed that letter,” Carter said.

The school board retained Beaver County-based Corporate Security and Investigations Inc. after Carter alleged that someone forged his name on the Oct. 11 letter containing his signature and that of school Superintendent Anthony Hamlet. The district paid the company $4,192 for the investigation, according to district spokeswoman Ebony Pugh.

Handwriting expert Khody R. Detwiler found there was a “strong probability” that Carter did not sign the letter, but could not conclusively determine it was a forgery because Carter and his attorney did not respond to questions pertaining to Carter’s physical condition in October, according to a 124-page report produced by CSI.

“Although the questioned ‘Kevin Carter’ signature contains many significant dissimilarities when compared against the submitted known signatures of Kevin Carter received for analysis it is not possible with the available evidence to verify Mr. Carter’s complete range of (handwriting) variation during the time period at issue,” Detwiler wrote in the report.

The letter pledged potential tax breaks and other incentives to Amazon. It was sent to the company along with the region’s nearly $10 billion bid — titled “Future Forged For All” — for Amazon’s second headquarters. Amazon, which promised 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment with its HQ2, opted to locate in New York and Arlington, Virginia.

Carter said he was never briefed on the Amazon bid, or anything contained in the letter and didn’t know the letter existed until officials released the bid in November.

The school board is now taking steps to prevent a similar situation in the future.

Board President Lynda Wrenn said members would implement Solicitor Ira Weiss’ recommendations that any future letters of support be voted on by the board during a public meeting, and signed only by the board president if approved.

“It’s too bad it was inconclusive,” Wrenn said of the report. “I think for the benefit for Mr. Carter it was worth it. I think if it was me I would want it addressed.”

Weiss noted a significant controversy at the time surrounding Carter’s claim and said the only way to resolve it was through an independent investigation conducted by an outside agency.

“It was approached it in a way to address the allegations raised by Mr. Carter,” Weiss said. “The result was there is no conclusive evidence, one way or another, as to whether it was someone other than Mr. Carter.”

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