Prince George’s officials lose jobs after internal investigation

September 28, 2012

Two top administrators for Maryland’s second-largest school system were removed from their jobs Thursday for using school funds to make an unauthorized payment to the former head of human resources after she resigned, according to school officials with direct knowledge of the firings.

Roger C. Thomas, the general counsel for the Prince George’s County school system, and Matthew E. Stanski, its chief financial officer, were dismissed after it was discovered that former human resources director Synthia J. Shilling received a six-figure check after her August resignation, said the officials, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak about the firings.

Neither Thomas nor Stanski responded to repeated efforts to reach them for comment.

The dismissals came after board members met in two executive sessions over the past week to discuss legal and personnel matters. On Thursday, the board called an emergency executive session.

Briant Coleman, a spokesman for the school system, would not confirm Thomas’s and Stanski’s employment status or details surrounding the firings. He released a statement saying that personnel matters are confidential.

“Last week an allegation was brought to the attention of the Board of Education and the interim Superintendent that specific Board directives issued in July and again in August regarding severance packages for members of the executive cabinet who resigned from employment were not properly followed,” Coleman said in the statement.

“The Board immediately directed the interim Superintendent to investigate the allegation and take personnel action if he determined it appropriate to do so. Certain personnel actions have been taken,” he said. “However, because information relating to personnel investigations and actions are confidential, no additional information will be provided at this time. This matter continues to be under review.”

Shilling, who had worked for the school system since 2006, resigned in August. At the time, she was facing trial for leaving the scene of an accident. Records show she was paid $172,289 a year.

On Aug. 28, The Washington Post submitted a request under the Maryland Public Information Act for details about Shilling’s final pay. Thomas denied the request on Aug. 31, saying that the records had personnel-related information.

On Thursday, Thomas was seen pushing a cart of boxes filled with his belongings out of the school system’s headquarters. He had worked as a lawyer for the school system since 2005. According to records, he was paid $189,870 a year.

Stanski, who was hired in 2007, served temporarily as the acting head of human resources in 2009 while he also worked as the budget chief. Records show he made $154,710 a year.

With the chief financial officer and general counsel gone, Alvin Crawley, the interim schools chief, finds himself, barely a month on the job, scrambling to fill key positions in the executive cabinet. Crawley, who did not return a call seeking comment, replaced William R. Hite Jr. on Sept. 4. Since taking office, he has replaced Shilling.

Prince George’s has experienced a leadership upheaval in the past three months, with numerous resignations and firings in central offices. The school system has lost its school superintendent, deputy superintendent, human resources chief, budget chief and general counsel.

The most recent dismissals come at a crucial time for the school system. In the next couple of months, Crawley begins preparing for the 2013-14 fiscal budget. It will be his first.

Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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