Penn Hills School District officials request investigation into grand jury report
Penn Hills School District officials want state Attorney General Josh Shapiro to investigate after an Allegheny County grand jury report netted no indictments.
“We are not accepting them,” board President Erin Vecchio said of the grand jury report’s results. “People should have been indicted. All it was was a smear tactic. The taxpayers of Penn Hills deserve more than that.”
The district sent a letter to Shapiro’s office Tuesday requesting it “make an independent determination on any criminality that may have taken place.”
It’s unclear when Shapiro would respond.
The grand jury report, which came after more than two years of investigating, was released Feb. 5.
It says district leaders were guilty of “inexcusable carelessness that brought it to “economic ruin” but failed to find cause to recommend criminal charges.
“This report amounts to a whitewash of any wrongdoing by those individuals involved,” the district’s letter reads.
The grand jury, convened by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., also cited concerns over possible ethics violations and conflicts of interest. But it did not address possible criminal actions outlined in an earlier report by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released in May 2016.
The audit highlighted several items not mentioned in the grand jury report such as school-issued credit card abuse and unchecked theft of district fuel among other issues.
“I would like to get a reasonable explanation on the grand jury results,” board Vice President George Sens said. “I don’t believe it addressed the issues, itself. I don’t believe it addressed any criminal charges. I believe there were some crimes committed.”
The district’s debt is about $172 million and climbing mostly to pay off debt for high school and elementary construction.
Vecchio said she hopes Shapiro would review all the grand jury testimony because she says the report does not dig deep enough into what happened in the district and with those schools.
“They have my name in their (report) more than anybody else — and I wasn’t even on the board (when the schools were built),” she said. “I wasn’t there during any part of the construction. The schools we voted on and planned (while I was on the board) would have worked.
“They changed the plan and made it bigger — even with declining population. If they stuck with the plan, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, email@example.com or via Twitter .