Ann DeMatteo, New Haven Register, December 23, 2010
The former operators of a charter school will have to pay back the state because they allegedly spent state and charitable money on Armani suits, silk pajamas and other personal uses.
State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal Wednesday announced a $176,707 settlement between the state and directors of the former Highville Mustard Seed Charter School.
The settlement resolves a lawsuit against former school Executive Director Lyndon Pitter, his ex-wife, Nadine Pitter, and former board Chairwoman Fatima Ennis. Blumenthal reached the agreement on behalf of the state departments of Education and Consumer Protection.
The suit was filed by Blumenthal in July 2007, after a state investigation revealed malfeasance within the Highville Mustard Seed Development Corp., which ran the school at 130 Leeder Hill Drive for nine years. After cooperation from state officials and parents, the school reopened as the Highville Charter School under the auspices of a new board of directors.
Lyndon Pitter was executive director of the school and corporation starting in 1998. Nadine Pitter was associate director and school nurse, and Ennis was a corporation board member and later board chairwoman. Neither they nor their lawyers from the Bridgeport firm of Winget, Spadafora and Schwartzberg could be reached Wednesday.
The state’s lawsuit alleged that Lyndon Pitter spent $78,539 in questionable charges, including Armani suits and silk pajamas, a down payment on a car and salary advances. Nadine Pitter allegedly did not work full time although she was paid a full salary. Ennis allegedly approved unauthorized payments to Lyndon Pitter in 2006 and 2007.
As a result of the investigative report and other matters, the state Board of Education put the school on probation and considered revoking its charter. But parents teamed up with Blumenthal, state education officials and others to save the school.
A Superior Court judge in Hartford was persuaded to appoint a receiver to save the school by transferring the charter to a new corporation and resolving outstanding claims against the corporation. It was estimated the school was $1.5 million in debt, and that at least $200,000 was misused.
The school has an enrollment of 300 pupils in kindergarten through eighth grade, about half from Hamden and half from New Haven.
The school operates on a $3 million annual budget, mostly in state funds, with the rest from donations, according to Troy.