Loose Lips

District Sues WUSA9 Anchor Over Alleged Charter School Self-Dealing

hayward

WUSA9 weekday noon anchor J.C. Haywardonce called a "news anchor legend" by the Washington Post—is among several people being sued by District Attorney General Irv Nathan for their alleged roles in taking more than $3 million from a D.C. public charter school.

Former officials at Options Public Charter School, including the chief executive officer and chief operating officer, are accused of extracting money from the 17-year-old school through extravagant salaries and sweetheart contracts with companies they controlled. The District wants the school to be placed in receivership, with the assets of some defendants—although not Hayward's—frozen.

The scheme allegedly centered around two for-profit companies: Exceptional Education Management Corporation (EEMC), which was owned and incorporated by Options CEO Donna D. Montgomery, and Exceptional Education Services at Options Public Charter School (EES), a company that was incorporated by Hayward, the chair of Options' board of trustees. The companies had other ties to the school, too—Options paid for their office space, which they shared, according to the attorney general.

At one point in April 2012, according to the attorney general's complaint (embedded below), Hayward signed off on a $159,000 loan to EES. Later that year, she allegedly agreed to a $981,250 transportation agreement between the school and EES—a hefty deal for the latter, considering that another company had been paid only $70,000 for a similar contract a year before.

The largest unusual contract Hayward was allegedly involved in went to EEMC. In February 2013, Hayward agreed to a $2,801,721 payment to EEMC as a "management fee," according to the attorney general's complaint, even though the contract had not been open for competitive bidding.

Options was expected to receive around $13.5 million last fiscal year, with most of it coming from the District, according to Nathan. Hayward, like Options' administration, didn't respond to LL's request for comment.

While Hayward is named in the lawsuit, her alleged involvement pales to that of her co-defendants. Jeremy L. Williams, a member of the school's board of trustees, is accused of sending confidential emails to warn the school's officials of incoming inspections while he was still employed as the chief financial officer of the Public Charter School Board. Another, Options CEO Montgomery, was allegedly paid $425,000 in one year. By comparison, the CEO of D.C. Prep,  ranked as one of the city's top charter schools, made $142,162 in 2012. Nathan's complaint also points out that $425,000 is more than twice Mayor Vince Gray's salary.

Photo courtesy WUSA9

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