COATESVILLE Thomas Hogan, the Chester County district attorney, is accusing the Coatesville school board of trying to intimidate a witness and hinder his office's investigation into district finances, according to a scathing two-page statement released Thursday.
Hogan issued the statement in response to the Coatesville Area School District's news release Tuesday that it had suspended its assistant superintendent. Hogan said that unlike some district employees, assistant superintendent Angelo Romaniello was cooperating with his investigation.
The district said Tuesday that it was putting Romaniello on administrative leave because of information it uncovered during an internal investigation that started as a result of the district's texting scandal. The district attorney said he told the district the information it discovered about Romaniello was a "noncriminal matter," without giving details.
"To date, the [Coatesville Area school board] has demonstrated an unswerving instinct to do exactly the wrong thing at nearly every step of this investigation," the report said.
For the last few months, the District Attorney's Office has been investigating whether the district's solicitor, James Ellison, overbilled the district and defrauded taxpayers. Romaniello is giving the district attorney information that could hurt Ellison in the investigation, the report said.
"Ellison's conflicted involvement again appears to be an attempt to undermine the overall investigation," the report said.
Ellison, who serves as the district's spokesman, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The district attorney's report took issue with the fact that Ellison "would rush to put out a press release on Romaniello after choosing to remain silent" about racist and sexist text messages about students and staff exchanged between former Superintendent Richard Como and former athletic director James Donato.
The report also rebutted the school district's claim that it is cooperating fully with investigators, saying certain unnamed members of the school board have refused to answer some questions about Ellison and whether the school board tried to cover up the offensive text messages.
"Whether the CASB and Ellison like it or not, this investigation will keep moving forward," the report said. "The District Attorney's Office will uncover whatever illegal activities and foolish or fraudulent business practices have taken place" within the school district.