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School district audit stirs acrimony at meeting

| Thursday, April 24, 2003

An otherwise-quiet Pittsburgh Public Schools board legislative meeting turned ugly Wednesday night after one member proposed suspending contract services for an internal audit.

Board member Randall Taylor made a motion to suspend the audit commissioned by the board to look into the district's funds during the 2000 school year. At that time, there was a reported $40 million deficit, which resulted in the board's decision to raise taxes and close schools.

Taylor questioned the $175,000 the board is paying the auditors and wanted to know how the firm is charging for its services.

Board President Darlene Harris defended the audit, which she said shows the deficit was not $40 million. She also promised that a thorough report on the auditor's spending would be provided.

A shouting match developed between board members Theresa Colaizzi and Alex Matthews after Colaizzi defended the audit and the board's decision to reopen some of the schools.

"Maybe all of us board members should have brand-new elementary schools in our own districts," she said in reference to the new Homewood Elementary School in a neighborhood represented by Matthews.

"That's a racial comment," Matthews said before Harris ruled them both out of order.

Board members William Isler, Mark Brentley Sr. and Matthews supported Taylor's motion, which was defeated, 5-4.

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