PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Last spring Senator Bob Casey came to Mifflin Elementary School in Lincoln Place in praise of its anti-bullying program — as explained by student Caitlin Pistella.
“We plan anti-bullying activities in our anti-bullying place and this year we held a play,” Pistella said.
But some in Lincoln Place would describe the program differently.
“Well, I call it a con,” Lincoln Place resident Loretta Weir said. “It’s a con.”
The program was funded with a $35,000 grant from the Heinz Endowments awarded to this man — community organizer and Mifflin Elementary parent teacher organization officer Lutual Love.
He’s a polarizing figure.
He has a criminal past — which includes arrests and convictions for aggravated assault, drug possession and disorderly conduct. Resident Loretta Weir thinks Love should not have clearance to run a program in the city schools.
“I think Lutual Love lost his right to be around children based on his criminal past,” Weir said.
But the concern goes deeper to the possible misuse of program funds. The school district has turned over these bank records to the district attorney’s office.
“Well, it appears that there were expenditures that were not related to the program,” school solicitor Ira Weiss said. “Things that appear too personal in nature, cash withdrawals, entertainment venues, personal expenditures.”
Records show $18,000 in expenditures — including more than $6,000 in withdrawals from ATMs — one of those is a $204 dollar withdrawal at the River’s Casino.
And there are also thousands of check card purchase for services, meals and entertainment including things like $92 spent at Dave and Buster’s and a $46 dollar bill at Footer’s Dry Cleaners.
“Well there may well be explanation for all that but we felt that rained investigators ought to be the ones to make that determination,” Weiss said.
Love seen who was seen at the Casey event last spring — declined to appear on camera — but told KDKA’s Andy Sheehan off camera — he has not misspent any money and he thinks the criticism of him is racist, something the school district denies.
“I don’t think this is racially driven,” Weiss said. “I think it’s a matter of auditing and accounting and wherever the investigation leads, it leads.”
Love is not without his supporters. Tim Smith from the circle of life church — which helps to administer the anti-bullying grant says the program effective.
“Stopping kids from, bullying other kids and having them respect each other and the teachers and adults. I think those things are important,” Smith said.
But late Monday, the district attorney did, in fact, charge Love with one count of fraud and two counts of theft by unlawful taking in connection with this account.