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Prince George’s school board accepts Md. watchdog’s findings

The Prince George’s County school board rescinded a vote this week that would have unseated four board members after a state inspector general for education’s investigation found that the local ethics reports the board used as the basis for the vote were unreliable and contained “factually inaccurate” information. .

The school board’s ethics panel produced reports last year that accused seven board members of offenses including steering contracts, doing political favors and engaging in a quid pro quo with a labor union. It also recommended removing six members and censuring one member.

Several of those members argued that the reports included inaccurate statements. A review by The Washington Post also found errors in key details of the reports, as did the state inspector general for education.

Some of the members targeted by the ethics panel reports had already left the board when the state investigation was released last month. But before that, the school board decided to oust the remaining four targets of the ethics reports.

Md. Watchdog: Reports from Pr. George’s school board ethics panel are unreliable

Curtis Valentine, an appointed, at-large member, offered an apology to those board members targeted by the initial ethics reports. He explained to the board that the inspector general’s investigation changed his mind about removing them.

“I should have done more homework,” Valentine said. “I should have come to the meeting better prepared.”

Eight members voted Thursday to accept the inspector general’s findings and undo the vote to remove the targeted members. Juanita D. Miller, the board’s chair, abstained, saying more time was needed to review the inspector general’s report. She also noted that a separate independent performance audit requested by the county council and released in June found there were some violations of hiring and open meetings policies by the same board members targeted in the ethics panel reports. The state education board is reviewing that audit, but targeted board members have also disputed the findings.

“I think there’s a lot of conflicting, well, could be considered, conflicting information,” Miller said. “I’m just not clear on board members’ … statements that the IG’s report exonerates anybody.”

Pr. George’s school board chair vows to fight charges, stay on board

Richard P. Henry, the state inspector general for education, said in an interview Thursday that his office reviewed the performance audit, but did not concur with one of its findings that the board members created positions and recommended salaries without using established policies and procedures. Henry said the state law as written allows the board to do so. He added that the state office stood by its report, and the state education board would determine the next steps.

A representative for Premier Group Services, Inc., which conducted the performance audit, declined to comment, citing confidentiality.

When the ethics reports were leaked last year, County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) admonished the targeted board members. Alsobrooks — who picks the school board’s chair, vice chair and school system CEO — did not answer direct questions about the inspector general’s report, including whether she had changed her stance against the targeted members.

Former ethics panel chairman Gregory T. Morton did not respond to questions about the inspector general’s investigation. He has said news stories about the state findings were “Based on narratives from voices seeking to discredit the work of the Ethics Panel.” Morton and the entire ethics panel resigned in April.

Karina Elwood contributed to this report.

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