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Independent Special Counsel Report on Shredding Accusations

At its August 2019 meeting, the Fox Chapel Area Board of School Directors formally approved the hiring of independent special counsel Thomas Breth from Dillon McCandless King Coulter & Graham L.L.P. to investigate an allegation that school district records were improperly shredded to avoid disclosure under Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know (RTK) Law. 

The investigation was ordered after School Board member Dr. Edith Cook wrote an email to the district’s solicitor, Paul Giuffre, and School Board President Terry Wirginis on June 19, 2019, reporting that, “I received information from a few sources that indicates that there may have been district records and RTK related documents removed from the administrative offices for shredding … .”

Mr. Breth’s investigation involved interviewing employees of the school district and the shredding company; reviewing Right-to-Know requests; examining applicable school district policies and procedures; conducting a search of the district’s email; and reviewing employment contracts, compensation plans, annual salary adjustments, and stipends.

Mr. Breth presented his findings at the School Board’s September 9 combined agenda study session and regular business meeting.

The four conclusions in Mr. Breth’s report are quoted verbatim below.

  1. The investigation was unable to identify a single witness or any evidence to support the allegation that School District records were improperly shredded to avoid disclosure under Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Act.

  2. Dr. Edith Cook, who communicated the allegation to the Board President, Mr. Terry Wirginis, and the Solicitor, Paul Giuffre, has consistently refused to provide additional information regarding the allegations or assist with the investigation in any manner.

  3. The School District employees who were interviewed as part of the investigation were competently able to discuss their job responsibilities including, but not limited to, their obligations under Policy 800 - Records Management and Administrative Regulations 800-AR-1- Records Retention Schedule. The employees fully cooperated with the investigations and conducted themselves in a professional and respectful manner.

  4. Due to the serious nature of the allegations, this investigation needed to be conducted by the School District. However, this entire situation could have been avoided, if questions would have been asked before reckless allegations were made impugning the honesty and integrity of School District employees.”

Here's is Mr. Breth's summary of investigation on the shredding allegations.