Coatesville Superintendent Was Targeted: DA - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Coatesville Superintendent Was Targeted: DA



    The Coatsville Superintendent placed on administrative leave this week may have been targetted for cooperating with the investigation. (Published Saturday, April 5, 2014)

    Serious new allegations have surfaced following the suspension of Coatesville Area School District's assistant superintendent.

    Dr. Angelo Romaniello was placed on administrative leave this week and the Chester County District Attorney believes the suspension is retaliation for Romaniello's cooperation in the case of the possible cover-up of racial text messages sent between the school district's former superintendent, Richard Como, and ex-athletic director Jim Donato.

    "It sounds and it smells like they are targeting the people who are providing information in this investigation," District Attorney Thomas Hogan told NBC10's George Spencer.

    According to the school district, the assistant superintendent was placed on leave for unrelated concerns, although they failed to specify what those concerns were.

    The new allegations come six months after the investigations into the text messages began.

    The messages, first reported by The Daily Local of West Chester and later obtained by NBC10, were uncovered by the district IT employee before the start of the school year, according to officials. That employee brought it to the attention of the school board on Aug. 18, prompting Como and Donato to resign a short time later.

    Shortly after the resignations, Chester County prosecutors launched a criminal investigation into the matter, and Hogan says the school district's given him a hard time ever since -- accusing them of trying to impede his review of the fallout and possible text message cover-up.

    "Quite frankly, they are impeded us and slowing down this investigation," said Hogan.

    At the height of the scandal, Romaniello himself faced accusations.

    Friday night, Coatesville school board responded to Hogan's allegation with the following statement:

    We are disappointed in District Attorney Tom Hogan’s most recent comments accusing the CASB and our solicitor of retaliation, obstruction and interfering with his investigation by placing Deputy Superintendent Angelo Romaniello on administrative leave pending the outcome of our internal investigation as well as investigations by county and state agencies. At all times in connection with this matter, the CASB and our solicitor have acted in good faith and in accordance with our responsibilities and duties under law. Contrary to Mr. Hogan’s assertions, the CASB promptly informed our special counsel Matt Haverstick of the issue pertaining to Dr. Romaniello, which was reported to CASB member Deborah Thompson by Dr. Theresa Powell and Mr. Abdallah Hawa on the evening of Thursday, March 27, 2014.  Mr. Haverstick was alerted immediately that evening by Mrs. Thompson via telephone, and he advised her that he would immediately report the matter to Mr. Hogan’s assistant district attorney, Andrea Cardamone. The rest of the CASB was alerted the same evening, and an executive session was held the next morning, Friday, March 28, 2014 @ 9 a.m., to review the information provided by the two staff members pertaining to Dr. Romaniello.  After reviewing the information provided by these individuals and discussing the same, Mr. Haverstick was directed to verify the authenticity and origin of the information provided, and Solicitor James Ellison was directed to verify the involvement/investigative status of one or more state agencies to which the two staff members asserted they previously provided said information. Mr. Ellison immediately met and spoke with the relevant state agencies as directed, and thereafter ensured that the Coatesville Area School District complied with state required reporting guidelines and procedures through which a separate state agency referral was made to Mr. Hogan’s office the same day.  Mr. Haverstick has secured the original source material containing the information provided by the two staff members and is in the process of verifying the accuracy and authenticity of the same as directed. Mr. Haverstick also provided copies of the information to Mr. Hogan’s office upon the express directive of the CASB, so that a determination could be made by law enforcement whether the same was criminal or noncriminal in nature - - assuming its authenticity could be verified.

    Pending the outcome of internal and external reviews, the CASB believed it prudent to place Dr. Romaniello on paid administrative leave as soon as possible. A CASB member, the interim superintendent and the solicitor were directed to convene a meeting with Dr. Romaniello for that purpose on Tuesday, April 1, 2014. The CASB wanted to be as transparent as possible regarding this process, while maintaining confidentiality regarding any investigation underway.  To that end, the CASB directed that a press release be issued immediately that afternoon. The Coatesville Area School District administration requested the assistance of the Chester County Intermediate Unit (IU) in drafting the release, and the IU graciously agreed. Upon receipt from the IU, the press release was reviewed, clarified and provided to the CASB, which authorized its issuance by the solicitor.  Later that afternoon, Assistant District Attorney Andrea Cardamone emailed Mr. Haverstick to advise him that her office reviewed the information shared by the two employees (which Mr. Haverstick provided on behalf of the CASB) and determined: (1) that it was noncriminal, (2) no investigation would be undertaken, and (3) her office wanted to inform the CASB of its decision right away.  Ms. Cardamone’s email to Mr. Haverstick made no mention of any accusation that the CASB was acting in an obstructive, retaliatory, or otherwise improper manner. There was no mention that our actions were viewed as "attempting to undermine a witness who is cooperating with the Commonwealth", "coordinated obstructionism" or other criminal conduct, or in bad faith. However, two days later, Mr. Hogan issued a blistering and inaccurate press statement accusing the CASB of doing just that.  We have no explanation as to why Mr. Hogan would presume, without evidence or even inquiry, that our actions were designed to interfere with his investigation or witnesses. We are at a loss to explain how reporting information which was provided to us by the two staff members, and following up on the same, raises suspicion by law enforcement. We believe that all would agree that if the CASB had handled the matter internally without reporting it to Mr. Hogan’s office, complying with state reporting requirements, and informing the public, the CASB would have faced withering criticism and a litany of accusations of improper, unethical and possibly illegal conduct.   Unfortunately, in acting in accordance with the law and in the spirit of total transparency, we stand accused and criticized nonetheless.