Watch CBS News

KDKA Investigates: Pittsburgh Cap And Gown Purchases Must Go Through Florida

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Soon the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance will fill gymnasiums and echo across football stadiums throughout the region.

If you're the parent of a suburban high school senior, you're likely purchasing your son or daughter's cap and gown from a company called Herff Jones and its local company rep Mark Gaither.

But if you're a Pittsburgh Public School parent, you're still buying from Herff Jones but you have to go through another representative, Joe Griffin, from Palm Beach County, Florida.

The same county where Superintendent Anthony Hamlet used to work.

"They have a local rep here in Pittsburgh you can buy from, but we're buying from a rep in West Palm Beach, Florida. That's a problem. That raises a lot red flags," city controller Michael Lamb said.

A red flag among many. Hamlet and four of his top administrators came to Pittsburgh from Florida, and as KDKA first told you, they took an unauthorized, expense-paid trip to Cuba last month with the Florida company the Flying Classroom.


And just last week, KDKA revealed that the public schools had entered into more than 50 none competitive contracts, many to Florida vendors or vendors Hamlet and those administrators used when they worked there. Caps and gowns being just the latest.

"Contracts are being awarded to Florida contractors and vendors. They are being taken away in many cases from local vendors here in Pittsburgh, and often, we're not getting the best price," Lamb said.

For the first time, Superintendent Hamlet responded Monday in written form to KDKA's reports, saying the questioning of millions of dollars in no-bid educational technology contracts "purposefully misled the public."

The new release says in part, "Regardless of whether a contract is procured via a competitive or non-competitive process, factors are used to evaluate the effectiveness or appropriateness of a service prior to being presented to the board."

Hamlet also added that while they are unable to confirm the 50 contracts cited in the report, they "know that technology has the potential to become the great equalizer in bridging the achievement gap among students from underserved populations."

Hamlet says he is "committed to continuing the work I have begun together with our Board through our strategic plan."

But Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, who is now reviewing these contracts, say he'll add caps and gowns to the list.

"There are a lot of questions out there. I'm going to do everything I can and my team is going to everything they can to get to the bottom of this," he said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.