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KD Investigation Gets Results: State Calls For FBI Probe Of Charter School

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Tens of thousands of dollars spent at Pittsburgh's finest restaurants, top-flight catering at every staff and school meeting, administration and board retreats to exclusive resorts and spas.

That's just for starters.

Your tax dollars went to cell phones for board member spouses, and even to develop another school out of state.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale didn't like what he saw and has turned the matter over to federal investigators.

"There were areas of questionable spending that we we're very, very concerned about and use of taxpayer money, and we turned this over to the FBI office in Pittsburgh," DePasquale says.

DePasquale say the use of tax dollars for luxuries and an out-of-state venture are potentially criminal, and so he's turned over documents to the FBI. The FBI in Pittsburgh would neither confirm nor deny an investigation, but DePasquale say agents here are conducting a probe.

"They are taking this mater very serious and are investigating," he said.

Late last week, Urban Pathways CEO Linda Clautti defended her spending, including more than $13,000 in restaurant charges in 2010, saying the meals were in part to raise money from donors.

"In one year we raised over a million dollars, so I can't apologize for that," she said.

But, in the wake of our report, Clautti declined to be interviewed and issued this statement:
"Urban Pathways Charter Schools continue to make the education and needs of their students their top priority. Issues brought up by the media have been referred to the schools' respective boards and legal counsel."

Meanwhile, DePasquale blasted the school's annual retreats by board members and administrators to resorts like Bedford Springs or two-week stays in places like Sea Isle City, N.J.

"If people want to go to a resort, they have every right to do that with their own money," he said.

He took special exception to cell phone bills for a board member and the spouses of two others.

"School district are facing choices of eliminating programs or raising taxes; the idea that tax money would be going to fund the cell phone for a board member's spouse is cleanly unacceptable," DePasquale said.

But he says what is most concerning are bills for the development of a new Urban Pathways School in Youngstown, Ohio.

Clautti says Pa. tax dollars were mistakenly used for this out-of-state project and the money will be reimbursed. DePasquale is asking the FBI to determine whether that is in fact the case.

Special Report: KD Investigators Question Spending At Charter School (11/8/13)
More Reports by Andy Sheehan

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