WITH EACH NEW squalid revelation, it becomes clearer why Andre J. Hornsby slipped out while he could. Mr. Hornsby, the former Prince George's County schools chief, resigned two weeks ago as an independent consultant hired by the schools to examine his shenanigans in office prepared to release its report. The report, by Huron Consulting Group Inc., makes clear that Mr. Hornsby, as chief executive of one of the nation's 20 biggest school systems, thought nothing of mingling money, contracts, friends and even his own on-the-side consulting business.
Despite Mr. Hornsby's past assertions to the contrary, the Huron report suggests that he Hornsby took an active role in negotiating a $1 million contract for the purchase of educational software from a company that employed his girlfriend. Sienna Owens, a saleswoman for LeapFrog SchoolHouse, apparently received half the commission for the contract. And while Huron did not disclose the amount paid to Ms. Owens, the Baltimore Sun reported that the commission on such a contract could run around $40,000. In other words, Mr. Hornsby, while running a school system of 136,000 students, may have been using a school contract to enrich his live-in lover.
Mr. Hornsby's extracurricular activities also included moonlighting in his own private consulting business. He established the business in 2000 but said that it was dormant after he became schools chief in 2003. The Board of Education instructed Mr. Hornsby that he would need permission to do outside work; apparently, he neither sought nor received it. Moreover, according to the report, Mr. Hornsby bent procedures by actively steering a contract from the school system to a company in Texas run by a former colleague, which in turn helped him run his decidedly un-dormant consulting business.
In a lengthy response to the report, Mr. Hornsby's lawyers insisted that he was merely "wrapping up" consulting work that he'd started before taking the schools job. They also said that Mr. Hornsby, who made a $250,000 salary from Prince George's and received $125,000 in severance pay when he resigned, had passed up "lucrative financial rewards" to focus on his job running the county schools.
What's increasingly clear in this sordid mess is that Mr. Hornsby played fast and loose with the truth, with ethics and with the integrity of Maryland's second-largest school system. What's less clear is how the school board could have been so oblivious to it all. Board members, who say they feel they were misled and betrayed by Mr. Hornsby, have now voted to create an inspector general's position to perform the function of an ethical watchdog. They have canceled the contract and frozen payments to Mr. Hornsby's former colleague in Texas. Now, with the FBI still investigating, they await a final chapter in the sorry history of Mr. Hornsby's tenure.