Favoritism 101: The Baldwin-Whiteball board helps its own

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If a professor were teaching a civics course in what not to do in public office — let’s call it Favoritism 101 — this might provide a suitable lesson:

A special meeting of a school board fills the seats of two resigning board members. But minutes later, without any public discussion, board members vote 7-1 to approve a new $120,000-a-year, five-year position for one of the departing board members. The public is expected to believe this new job was created without any prior deliberations.

Any student given such a scenario might think the professor was making it up. Surely public officials could not be so outrageous as to create a lucrative job without discussion and give it to one of their colleagues. It reeks of favoritism and scorn for the taxpayers.

But the lesson here isn’t theoretical. These are the facts alleged in a lawsuit brought by a Baldwin resident against the Baldwin-Whitehall School District claiming violations of the Public School Code at the Nov. 19 special meeting

The former school board member and now “supervisor for projects for the board of school directors and special assistant to the superintendent” is Martin Schmotzer, 57, of Whitehall.

Mr. Schmotzer is a local political insider. He is a former 10-year member of the school board who was appointed again in 2012 and last month was re-elected to a full term. Mr. Schmotzer also served briefly as a state representative in 2012.

There’s something else that does not inspire confidence: In 2000, Mr. Schmotzer was arrested for stealing $50,000 as an Allegheny County deputy clerk of courts and pleaded guilty in federal court. The charge was dismissed later on a technicality.

Although this suit will be decided by the courts, you don’t have to be a professor to see why residents in the school district have reason to be upset.


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