The Harrisburg School Board voted unanimously last night to affirm a previous decision to demote a former business manager, months after a county court ordered it to reconsider its action.
At a sparsely attended special meeting, board members voted 7-0 to approve an adjudication document defending the district’s demotion of Kenneth Medina, a business manager who was reassigned with a pay cut following allegations of professional misconduct last year.
The unanimous vote was a rare show of unity from the factious board. For the past year, many of its decisions have split on a 6-3 or 5-4 vote.
Board directors Carrie Fowler and Melvin Wilson were absent from last night’s meeting.
Following the board’s decision, the district will send the new adjudication to Medina. The document adds additional detail to the charges and evidence brought against Medina last year, according to district solicitor Samuel Cooper, and satisfies an August order from a Common Pleas judge that the district reconsider his case.
Since the document is not yet public, it’s unclear if it addresses the central complaint in Medina’s case against the district: that administrators did not follow the procedure for removing a business manager as set forth in the Pennsylvania School Code.
Medina said on Wednesday that he would not comment on the board’s decision until he conferred with his lawyer.
Medina was hired as Harrisburg’s Business Manager in April 2016 at a salary of $120,000. He was reassigned to a grants manager role at a salary of $60,000 last October, after Harrisburg Superintendent Sybil Knight-Burney placed him on administrative leave due to allegations of professional misconduct.
According to Knight-Burney, Medina had failed to notify the district of a vehicle loss, submitted budgets to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) with incorrect figures, failed to schedule building inspections at John Harris High School, and failed to make arrangements for mail service at district properties.
Medina denies those allegations. He says his reassignment came after he started raising questions about consultant contracts and other practices in the district’s long-troubled business office.
But when the district held a due process hearing in August 2017, a hearing examiner prepared a report concluding that the allegations against Medina were credible. The board voted to adopt the examiner’s recommendations, leading to Medina’s reassignment and salary cut.
Medina filed a complaint with the court of common pleas, which heard his case in July. Judge John Cherry ordered the school board to re-hear Medina’s case one month later.
Last night, Cooper said the district fulfilled the court’s mandate by preparing a more detailed written decision justifying Medina’s reassignment.
The district has shared that adjudication with board members, who reviewed it before last night’s vote.
According to Cooper, a vote to approve the document “ratifies the actions the board had previously taken.”
With the board’s approval, the district will send the adjudication to Medina before making it public, Cooper said.
In an email on Monday, Medina said he fully expected the board to vote on a retroactive adjudication. He said he’ll continue to ask for full reinstatement of job title, salary, and benefits, and that he has applied for the positions of chief financial officer, business manager and assistant superintendent that are posted on the district’s website.
The district has operated without a full-time, permanent business manager since Medina’s demotion, despite a stipulation in its state-approved recovery plan that it appoint one. Bilal Hasan, who was Medina’s assistant business manager, has served as acting business manager since January.
In a June letter to the superintendent, Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro Rivera said that Hasan did not meet the qualifications for his role. Rivera ordered the district to hire a new business manager, and to replace its part-time chief financial officer with a full-time one.
Last night, board President Judd Pittman questioned why the district has not yet complied with PDE’s mandate.
“We either need to move forward with the recommendations that have been put forward or we’re negligent of our duties,” Pittman said. “And we need to do so in a timely fashion.”
The hiring has been delayed in part because human resources Director Curtis Tribue (who Medina called “a central witness” in the case against him) was placed on administrative leave last month.
Interim human resources Director Barbara Richards told the board last night that her office is focused on hiring a CFO first, since the business manager will report to that person. She said HR has fine-tuned the job description for the CFO and posted it on multiple job board sites.
This article was amended on Wednesday to add comments from Medina and to remove a statement that Medina has relocated to Seattle.