PITTSBURGH — The president of Pittsburgh Technical College is fighting back against an independent investigation that found she committed misconduct. Now, she’s hired her own lawyer to challenge the merit of that report and has released a rebuttal.
As we first reported, the school’s board hired a law firm this summer to get to the bottom of whistleblower complaints alleging financial misconduct against the school’s president, Dr. Alicia Harvey-Smith. She’s adamant she’s done nothing wrong.
But now, it’s a different board of trustees than the one that initially started the investigation in July. Only two of the original board members remain. They’re the same two who have supported the President of PTC all along.
“There are a small number of people leading vicious attacks,” Dr. Harvey-Smith said in an video interview arranged by PTC.
President and CEO, Dr. Alicia Harvey-Smith defended her leadership in the wake of an independent report which found she mismanaged school funds in a number of ways. Her attorney called the report speculative and says it disregarded evidence. They also took issue with the report being leaked to 11 Investigates.
“It is inappropriate to release confidential board information, period, it’s just inappropriate,” Dr. Harvey-Smith said. “Anyone condoning that or reporting on that without full information and facts - it’s dangerous. It’s dangerous to my students, it’s dangerous to every employee here.”
Harvey-Smith says a small number of school employees are trying to ruin her reputation. On Thursday, PTC sent a letter addressed to the school community from all of the current board members, saying they support Dr. Harvey-Smith and that it’s time to move forward. We asked board members why the school would pay a law firm for an independent investigation and disregard the findings.
“It’s up to us to make a judgement on how we want to use those results,” a board member said. “It’s not required we use those results.”
Board members say they believed Dr. Harvey-Smith’s explanation about several of the investigation’s findings including:
-She was unaware the school paid $32 thousand to help her publish her book
-A contract questioned in the investigation actually saved the school $10 thousand/month
-A student scholarship cost the school nothing, because based on under enrollment and vacant housing, it was unlikely a paying student would have filled the slot
Another board member said the president has the power and authority to make these decisions and they support her.
11 News also asked Dr. Harvey-Smith about an email she sent to faculty and staff, which threatened legal action against anyone spreading misinformation or releasing confidential information to the media. This has raised concerns among the employees who first went to the board with questions about her spending.
“I’m not, I am not going after or targeting individuals,” Dr. Harvey-Smith said. “What I am trying to do it make sure PTC is viewed as an integrity-driven organization.”
There has been even more fallout. We’ve now learned the school’s legal counsel, Interim Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs and Chief Information Officer have all resigned in the midst of this. That’s in addition to five members of the board of trustees who have left.
The president of PTC now has the support of the people who remain, and she says she wants to move the school forward.
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