PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – After KDKA exposed the now-infamous Cuba trip and detailed dozens of other out-of-state and out-of-the-country trips taken by Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet during his brief tenure, the state auditor general initiated an inquiry of his own.
“We became aware of your reports on the trip to Cuba and the other travel, that’s when I jumped in because of that,” Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said.
KDKA’s investigation found that in these three years as superintendent of schools, Hamlet took 23 paid trips in all, and at a cost to the district of more than $32,000.
He’s traveled to places like Denver and Las Vegas, Vancouver and Miami, New Orleans, Chicago and Los Angeles multiple times each — a total of 65 days out of state.
“The list goes on and on and on and we simply find that kind of increase and the total cost simply inexcusable,” DePasquale said.
DePasquale’s own probe found that under Hamlet, district travel has increased by 180 percent, an average of $24,250 a month, with little or no justification.
“Think about instead of using that out of state travel for the superintendent that was used for an early learning program for kids in the Hill District to learn how to read,” he said.
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Most of Hamlet’s paid trips have been to educational conferences where the superintendent meets with educators and administrators from around the country.
But some are sponsored by the educational technology companies with whom the district now has contracts.
In October, he spoke at a Chicago conference sponsored by the company ReThink Ed.
In March, the board approved a $250,000 contract with the company.
And in May, Hamlet hosted a panel discussion at a Chicago conference sponsored by Discovery Education.
Earlier this year, the board had approved a million-dollar contract with the company and is reviewing another Discovery package worth $4 million dollars more.
“The idea that public officials — whether they be elected or appointed — going out and in effect being spokespeople for private vendors is, in my opinion, questionable at best,” DePasquale said.