PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The FBI and Pittsburgh Public School District are now involved with an investigation into misuse of taxpayer funds by Pittsburgh’s Urban Pathways Charter School.
Allegedly, the school’s board has spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars at some of the best restaurants in the city, top flight catering at ever staff and school meetings and administration and board retreats to exclusive resorts and spas.
There were also cellphone bills for board members’ spouses and local tax dollars to develop another school out of state. Now the Pittsburgh School District wants to know how and why that money was spent.
“On the face of it, it’s very concerning,” said Ira Weiss with Pittsburgh Public Schools. “And we’re going to appropriate inquiry of Urban Pathways for information and explanation.”
Unaware of this spending until they saw our reports was the school district, which authorizes Urban Pathway’s charter. Now the district wants three years of financial records.
“The school district normally doesn’t do extensive financial review,” Weiss said. “We rely on the normal state agencies to do that, but obviously there was a lot going on, escaping notice until now.”
School CEO Linda Clautti has defended her spending, including more than $13,000 in restaurant charges in 2010, saying meals were in part to raise money from donors. But the school district takes exception to the school’s annual retreats by board members and administrators to resorts like Bedord Springs or two week stays in places like Sea Isle City, N.J.
“Certainly entertainment of this sort, you know, out-of-state venues a few weeks at a time,” Weiss said. “Those are the sort of things you don’t see in the public sector.”
But while outside agencies are looking at the spending at the charger school, there is some self-reflection from within. The Urban Pathways School Board has called a special meeting this week to discuss the findings of KDKA’s report.