Longtime television news anchor J.C. Hayward was dismissed from a high-profile charter school lawsuit Tuesday, releasing her from allegations that she was involved in financial mismanagement at a District school for troubled teens.
A spokesman for the city’s Office of the Attorney General confirmed that Hayward, a former anchor for WUSA (Channel 9) who once chaired the board of Options Public Charter School, reached a settlement with the city.
[Read the dismissal document here]
In October 2013, the D.C. attorney general filed a lawsuit naming the well-known television personality as one of five people involved in an effort to divert millions of federal tax dollars meant for Options to two for-profit companies that the school’s managers created and ran. Hayward allegedly signed off on contracts that steered tax dollars to the companies, according to the original complaint in the case. The lawsuit also alleged that she helped incorporate one of the companies and had an ownership interest in it.
According to the terms of the settlement, Hayward will pay $8,500 to Options, an amount authorities had alleged she received to attend one company’s board meetings.
Hayward’s attorney, Jeffrey S. Jacobovitz, noted that the amount had been approved by the board’s outside counsel at the time. He has long said that Hayward was innocent of any wrongdoing and unaware of any alleged scheme.
[Hayward profile: More than 40 years on the anchor desk. And then she was gone.]
The District’s claims are pending against the other defendants, including Paul Dalton, Donna Montgomery and David Cranford — all former managers at the school — and Jeremy Williams, a former chief financial officer of the D.C. Public Charter School Board. The Office of the Attorney General said a parallel federal investigation is pending.
D.C. officials have alleged that the managers of the Northeast Washington school diverted at least $3 million to enrich themselves, engaging in a “pattern of self-dealing” that was part of an elaborate contracting scam. The private companies won lucrative contracts for bus transportation and school management and were paid for services that went undocumented or were performed by school employees, according to court papers.
The former school leaders have said that no public funds were misused and that the contracts and payments were vetted by the school’s board, external auditors and the D.C. Public Charter School Board.
Hayward retired from WUSA in January after four decades on the air. She had been on hiatus since late 2013, when she was placed on leave pending an investigation into the Options allegations.
“Ms. Hayward has always disputed these claims from the beginning and has professed her profound commitment to helping at-risk young people in the Metropolitan Washington D.C. area,” Jacobovitz said in a statement on behalf of Hayward.
The first female news anchor in the Washington area 43 years ago, Hayward has been a prominent supporter of local charities and is a familiar face to many residents. Since her retirement, he said, she has been working to set up a scholarship endowment for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington.
“Ms. Hayward is delighted that she will be able to leave a lasting legacy. This lawsuit closes a small chapter in her life,” he said.
Hayward, who has declined to comment on the allegations, said this year that the civil case and criminal investigation had no bearing on her decision to retire.
“I’ve moved on with my life,” she said in January, when she announced her retirement. “Sometimes life hands you cards that you don’t exactly like, but you have to play them, and you can’t just sit around and be sad about the hand that was dealt you.”
Rocky Twyman, chairman of the Friends of J.C. Hayward, a support group that was formed after the allegations against Hayward became public, said he was ecstatic after hearing that she would no longer be part of the civil suit.
“This has been so heavy, because we know about all the wonderful works she has done, and we could not believe that she would steal any money, especially from a school of challenged children,” Twyman said.