D.A. urges release of Coatesville probe

Posted: July 26, 2014

The Chester County district attorney on Thursday called on the Coatesville Area School District to release its taxpayer-funded internal review of district management, nearly a year after the texting scandal that prompted the investigation.

"The report exists to expose potential wrongdoing and mismanagement," Thomas Hogan said in a statement. "If the report is released, these problems can be examined and corrected. If the report is hidden away by the board, then the full extent of the problems will remain unknown and impossible to fix."

Coatesville's school superintendent resigned last year after the discovery of racist and sexist text messages on his phone and as county authorities looked into possible mismanagement by district officials.

Coatesville pledged last fall to conduct its own investigation.

Superintendent Cathy Taschner, who started work last month, said the district was considering Hogan's request, which it has heard before.

"The district attorney has thoroughly explained the issues that surround the release of the report," she said in a statement.

The school board must vote to release the report because its attorney, Matthew Haverstick, conducted the investigation, Hogan said.

Stu Deets, a school board member, said Thursday that while the board got the results of the investigation months ago, it recently received a supplement to consider. "Now that we actually have the full report," he said, "I imagine [the vote] is going to come in the not too distant future."

Hogan said the release of the report would help his office, which is conducting a criminal investigation into the district, including allegations of obstruction of justice and potential overbilling by its solicitor. He has said the district has not cooperated with his inquiry.

Hogan said the public has a right to know about any problems revealed by the district's internal investigation, which cost more than $350,000, according to the District Attorney's Office. If the school board keeps the report to itself, Hogan said, it is essentially admitting the report makes it look bad.

Hogan also asked that the board publicly vote to waive attorney-client privilege with its solicitor's former law firm, Rhoads & Sinon. The District Attorney's Office is investigating solicitor James Ellison in possible overbilling of the school district.

To investigate Ellison's bills, Hogan said, the office must interview his former coworkers, and it cannot do that unless the school board waives the privilege.

Reached Thursday, Ellison deferred any comment to the superintendent.


mbond@philly.com

610-313-8207 @MichaelleBond

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