- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 14, 2004


Baltimore City school board members met in a closed session yesterday for more than two hours to discuss the school system’s $58 million deficit.

Board members met with the board’s attorneys to get legal advice, said Patricia Welch, the board president.

Miss Welch told WJZ-TV after the meeting that no conclusions have been reached.

She said more conversations need to take place with Mayor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, “so that we can come to some decision that will be as least disruptive as possible to the children.”

She said the board could be close to a decision by Tuesday.

“By then we will have conversations again with our partners,” Miss Welch said.

On Friday, Bonnie S. Copeland, the school system’s chief executive officer, delayed classes for two hours because more than 600 teachers called in sick the day after rejecting a 3.5 percent pay cut proposed by the city.

Because of the pay-cut rejection, Mrs. Copeland said she must either proceed with an estimated 1,200 layoffs, most of them teachers, or impose the salary cuts without union approval — even if that meant teachers took the system to court.

State School Superintendent Nancy Grasmick has set up a three-person investigative panel that would look into the deterioration of school finances and present a report by May 15.

U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio yesterday urged people to call his office with information about criminal wrongdoing leading to the massive deficit.

Mr. DiBiagio said on WBAL-AM that he would be interested to hear more information relating to kickbacks, bribes, no-show jobs or actual theft that contributed to the massive deficit.

“They should know if they do come forward, we’re going to do something about it,” he said.

Mr. DiBiagio said his office has jurisdiction to investigate widespread fraud because the school system uses federal money.

“Clearly there’s a state interest, but when it comes to criminal investigations involving complex fraud, typically the United State’s Attorney’s Office is the organization that spearheads such an investigation,” he said.

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