Coatesville board hires Phila. law firm

Posted: October 24, 2013

A day after Chester County's district attorney publicly accused the Coatesville Area School District's board of impeding his investigation into school finances, the board voted Tuesday to hire a Philadelphia law firm to represent the district in the inquiry. Attorney Matthew Haverstick of Conrad O'Brien will represent the district, District Attorney Thomas Hogan confirmed Tuesday night. "Mr. Haverstick is an experienced and well-respected lawyer, so we look forward to working with him," Hogan said.

Hogan released a statement Monday telling the board to cooperate with his office and revealing that his office was investigating the district's solicitor, James Ellison, and his law firm for possibly defrauding taxpayers by overbilling the district.

Hogan said Ellison's representation of the district was now a conflict of interest, since he and his firm were part of the investigation. He recommended that the board find another lawyer, but acknowledged that replacing Ellison was up to the board. "It is certainly a good idea to get independent counsel to handle the investigation, as we called for," Hogan said Tuesday.

School Board President Neil Campbell and the solicitor did not answer a school board candidate who asked at a meeting Tuesday night whether the board would suspend Ellison. The board has continued to say it has always cooperated with the district attorney's investigation.

Hogan's office began investigating the district after seeing references to kickbacks among the racist and sexist text messages sent between former Superintendent Richard Como and former athletic director James Donato, who resigned at the beginning of the school year.

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