President of Pittsburgh Technical Colleges fights back against whistleblower reports

OAKDALE, Pa. — Pittsburgh Technical College has six new board members just voted in Monday after a rash of resignations. Now, the president of PTC, Dr. Alicia Harvey-Smith is defending her actions, saying despite what whistleblowers are alleging, an independent investigation found no wrongdoing on her part.

After our first report aired last week about allegations of wrongdoing at Pittsburgh Technical College, Harvey-Smith agreed to sit down and do an interview with us in her office. PTC is a technical college with roughly 1,000 students and 225 faculty/staff.

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We started with the vote of no confidence. Whistleblowers say 82% of all faculty and staff voted unanimously no confidence in Harvey-Smith. That vote took place on July 27.

“I was surprised by the vote, I have to be honest,” Harvey-Smith said. “I do think there is some question about the timing and legitimacy of that vote. It was all done anonymously, so that is certainly also concerning.”

That vote took place while an independent investigation was underway into Harvey-Smith. Whistleblowers also took issue with a book deal the president had that PTC paid $32,000 for. Harvey-Smith said she was unaware of the $32,000.

“I did not learn that until this matter was discussed,” Harvey-Smith said. “The book is only 200 pages, to think editing and review would come to that total is quite surprising. I never approved or signed any of those invoices.”

Then there’s the topic of the president’s office. Whistleblowers tell Channel 11 News it was $300,000-$400,000 to construct and furnish. When we asked her if she knew the total cost of the office, she said she did not. But she did mention the board approved the office and began construction before her arrival. We also did not find a waterfall as the whistleblowers initially told us.

“The office was the request of the board and approved by the board prior to my arrival. It’s not a posh office. There is no waterfall. It is in essence, simply an office.”

Harvey-Smith says she wants to make one thing very clear:

“There was discovery of no wrongdoing and I want to emphasize that. It’s important to the community we serve,” she said.

We still have not been provided with a copy of the independent investigation. Harvey-Smith says that’s up to the board and it’s likely it will not be released because it is a personnel matter.

Harvey-Smith said she wishes faculty and staff would have come to her with their concerns so she could have addressed them.

“We have to work harder, and I think the new board will be part of that working harder — to create an environment where open community is not only valued but encouraged at a higher level. Integrity is everything.”

After our initial report, the former president of PTC, Greg DeFeo, reached out to Channel 11, concerned about the future of PTC. He said:

“I was extremely proud of my 20 years with PTC, including my 11-year tenure as President of Pittsburgh Technical College and the positive impact we had on students, the regional workforce, and the community which we served. I was blessed to work with over 300 amazing faculty, staff, and administrators. In 2018, I resigned as I could no longer work with a Board of Trustees that I deemed was unethical, incompetent, and ignored proper board practice. When I left, the College was in its best financial position with the strongest balance sheet since the opening of the North Fayette Campus in 2000. Today, it appears the college is facing a completely unnecessary financial disaster largely due to the Board of Trustees’ actions and their failure to properly govern the college, assess the president, evaluate institutional effectiveness, and safeguard the use of college assets. The vast majority of the Board of Trustees have apparently decided to resign rather than be held accountable for their incredible failures while a few board members remain to continue on with their failed practices.

It is heartbreaking to see the College become just a shadow of what it was a few years ago. For 75 years, the soul of PTC was the dedicated staff and faculty and the talented, career focused students and alumni. I hope these wonderful students, staff and faculty that remain at Pittsburgh Technical College succeed in their efforts to gain control and move the college forward.”

We’ve reached out to the board members who were in their roles during the independent investigation. They haven’t returned our calls or answered our questions.

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