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Harrisburg attorney under investigation in Chester Co. - abc27 WHTM

Harrisburg attorney under investigation in Chester Co.

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(WPVI) — The Chester County District Attorney is calling on the Coatesville School Board to cooperate with the ongoing investigation into financial wrongdoing within the school district. Specifically, he has some pressing questions about the millions of dollars the district paid its attorney - called a solicitor - over the past few years.

Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan says the Coatesville Area School Board and its solicitor, James Ellison, promised full cooperation with an ongoing criminal investigation into financial wrongdoing in the district. Instead, he says the school board and its attorney appear to be obstructing his investigation.

Hogan says, "When we request documents or when we request to speak to certain individuals, we are told that they're either not available or we're told that they can't talk to us. That's a problem in an investigation."

Hogan says the school board has also taken steps to harass and bully whistleblowers.

"It's making life difficult for them. It's calling them in and placing their jobs in jeopardy," explained Hogan.

During this investigation, racist and sexist text messages between the former superintendent, Richard Como, and former athletic director, Jim Donato, were made public - setting off a firestorm in the community. Hogan said Monday that there are likely to be more shocking revelations, including the possibility that improper legal expenses were paid to Ellison and his Harrisburg law firm in the last few years.

"This was literally millions of dollars in taxpayer money that has been spent over the years in the school district for their legal expenses," said Hogan.

The district attorney confirmed there is now an ongoing investigation into Ellison and his law firm for possible criminal conduct, including obstructions of justice and whether taxpayers were defrauded through improper legal fees and expenses.

Action News reached out to the acting superintendent, the assistant superintendent, and Ellison, but our calls and emails were not returned.

(Copyright ©2013 WPVI-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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