Anthony Hamlet
Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet.

Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet resigned his position on Wednesday, Sept. 8. Effective on Oct. 1., the resignation comes 13 days after the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission released a report detailing the ethical lapses by the superintendent.

Hamlet’s resignation follows a series of closed meetings of the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education about the Ethics Commission report. Board President Sylvia Wilson said in a Zoom meeting with the media that she would not disclose the substance of those meetings because they involved a confidential personnel matter.

Hamlet will receive $399,687, which Pittsburgh Public Schools Solicitor Ira Weiss said reflects one year of his salary and benefits minus the value of vacation days that the commission found Hamlet owed to the district. The payment was part of Hamlet’s contract with the schools. Hamlet took over as superintendent in July 2016.

The Ethics Commission released its 147-page report on Hamlet on Aug. 26. That same day Hamlet and his attorney, David Berardinelli, held a press conference in which Berardinelli stated that “no intentional misconduct by Dr. Hamlet was found or admitted to in the Consent Order.”

Hamlet did admit to pocketing reimbursements for travel that had been paid by the school district, rather than turning the money over to the district.

He also admitted to rolling over vacation days from one year to another, which was in violation of his employment contract, and to not applying vacation time to days when he was in Florida shopping and accepting an alumni award from his high school.

The Ethics Commission also looked into a trip that Hamlet, along with five other district administrators, took to Cuba at a vendor’s expense. The schools had a $73,000 contract with the vendor, The Flying Classroom, whose founder and CEO, Barrington Irving, flew the administrative staff to Havana for a two-day trip. The district paid for the team’s airfare down to Miami. But the team did not have approval from the school board to leave the country.

According to the consent order, Hamlet denied violating the Ethics Act with the trip to Cuba but agreed that “if this matter went to hearing, the Investigative Division could, by circumstantial evidence, meet the requisite evidentiary standard and convince a fact finder that he violated Section 1103(a) of the Ethics Act.”

The consent order also called for Hamlet to repay the amount he was reimbursed for travel that had been paid by the district.

The commission also noted that there were violations of the Ethics Act when Hamlet accepted money for appearances that were directly related to his role as superintendent of schools. In some cases he was paid $2,000 a day to sit through and critique presentations by education technology companies and some of those days included days when he was not on any vacation or personal leave from the district.

There were other instances that were not included in the consent order that were detailed in the investigative report. In one such instance, when members of the district’s administrative team flew to Poland for a program with Classrooms Without Borders, Hamlet did not travel with the team. Instead he traveled first to Russia and China, then met up with the team after they had started the program. Yet, according to the investigation, Hamlet put in for $52 a day in meal reimbursement, including a payment for a day when the rest of the team was in Poland and he was in China on personal business.

The consent order called for him to pay the district $2,908.89 for the reimbursements, another $3,250 to the district that will then be paid to The Pittsburgh Promise, and $1,750 to the state Ethics Commission.

In his statement after the Ethics Commission was released, Hamlet said: “With this review behind me now, it feels like a fresh start.”

In his letter of resignation released Wednesday, he said: “For the past five years, it has been my distinct honor and pleasure to serve in Pittsburgh as your superintendent. After much thought and consideration and because, in light of current circumstances, I think it is presently the best thing for our students and families, I believe that now is the time for my tenure to come to an end and to embark upon a new chapter of my professional life.”

Board President Wilson, in a statement released by the district, said, “The Board would like to thank Dr. Hamlet for his five-plus years of service and wish him well.”

Ann Belser

Ann Belser is the owner of Print, a newspaper covering Pittsburgh's East End communities. After receiving a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, she moved to Squirrel Hill and was a staff writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 20 years where she covered local communities, county government, courts and business.