District’s lawsuit against Options charter school delayed


A judge Friday delayed the District’s civil case against former Options Public Charter School leaders because of concerns that the case could impact an ongoing criminal investigation. (Marlon Correa/Washington Post)

A Superior Court Judge on Friday briefly delayed D.C.’s lawsuit against Options Public Charter School and its former leaders, writing that he was swayed to put the case on hold by the prospect that the case could impact similar ongoing criminal proceedings.

Judge Craig Iscoe ordered the parties in the lawsuit to hold off for at least 90 days in exchanging documents and other information, though he declined to postpone the case indefinitely while a parallel criminal investigation unfolds. He wrote that other processes not related to so-called “discovery” could move forward. The city is suing Options and its ex-leaders, alleging that they engaged in a self-dealing scheme and diverted more than $3 million from the Northeast Washington school for at-risk teens to companies they founded.

Their conduct also is the subject of a federal criminal investigation, according to people familiar with the probe.

The delay in the civil case came at the request of Jeremy L. Williams, the former chief financial officer at the D.C. Public Charter School Board. The city has accused him of joining in the financial wrongdoing he was supposed to stop, alleging he took $150,000 to help former Options managers evade oversight.

Troy W. Poole, Williams’s attorney, declined to comment on the allegations against his client, but said of Iscoe’s ruling: “I believe that this is the court’s way of telling the District of Columbia that they need to seriously consider settling this matter. The District has received about 95 percent of the relief sought in their amended complaint, which means there’s essentially nothing left to litigate.”

The city had sought to remove Options leaders from operating the school, stop the flow of money to their private companies, and put the school into receivership, all of which the judge granted.

The brief stay is unlikely to have a significant impact on the civil case, though the reasons it was requested and granted are interesting. Iscoe noted the criminal probe into those involved with Options weighed “heavily” in favor of a delay, as forcing former Options executives to give under oath depositions in the civil case could put them “in a position to choose between defending the civil action or protecting their interests in the criminal proceeding.”

The judge noted that a lawyer for an Options executive who was not named in the civil case said at a May 13 hearing that someone from the U.S. Attorney’s Office had said “indictments would be returned in the next few weeks.” That executive — Charles Vincent, the former executive director of the school — has been interviewed by federal prosecutors, according to court documents.

As of Friday afternoon, there had been no indictments related to the case.

Get updates on your area delivered via e-mail

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Local