Penn Hills School Board trying to oust financial recovery officer
The Penn Hills school board is trying to remove the district’s state-appointed financial recovery officer, Daniel Matsook.
In a letter obtained by the Tribune-Review, the school board alleges Matsook attempted to “employ or appoint people, entities or other businesses of his own choosing without notice, input or consultation with the Penn Hills school board.”
The letter said his actions “create the appearance of impropriety and place in question the motives (of Matsook).”
The letter also alleges Matsook “misrepresented” that the hiring of those people or entities were “required to be hired at the direction of the Pennsylvania Department of Education under the guise of the recovery program without any input by the school board.”
Matsook denies the allegations.
“It’s completely fabricated, none of that is true. Not one iota,” he said.
The letter was signed by board President Erin Vecchio and Vice President George Sens.
Vecchio said she could not comment on the allegations leveled against Matsook in the letter. She said the board was awaiting a response from the state education department.
Board member Mike Tauro declined to comment and deferred questions to Vecchio.
Board members Rob Marra and Yusef Thompson Sr. did not respond to requests for comments.
Eric Levis, state education department press secretary, said in an email the department received the letter on Sept. 9.
“On Monday, (education department) officials traveled to the school district and met with both the chief recovery officer and the school board to further discuss the matter,” Levis said.
He said the department expects to provide an official response “within the next week or two.”
Levis did not offer additional details.
Superintendent Nancy Hines did not respond to multiple calls seeking comment.
Matsook said the confusion might be rooted in his efforts to bring in PFM, a Philadelphia-based financial advisory firm, to help with a financial recovery proposal.
“Maybe they wanted somebody else,” Matsook said. “My position is, how can you pass up this one?”
But, he said, he has never said it was required to use the firm.
“And I have no idea what they’re talking about doing things without their knowledge,” Matsook said. “I’ve been working with the financial team coming up with innovative ideas to make sure they do refinancing the right way … I don’t want them to make the same mistake.”
Penn Hills is more than $172 million in debt largely due to the construction of a high school and elementary school.
Matsook, former Wilkinsburg Superintendent, was appointed as the school district’s financial recovery officer in February. The state Department of Education placed Penn Hills in financial recovery in January after being in financial watch since 2017.
District officials approved a financial recovery plan June 29. State Department of Education officials did the same in mid-July.
It’s available for review on the district’s website, phsd.k12.pa.us.
Matsook said in August the school district was “off to a good start” with its plan to climb out of debt.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter .