Harrisburg School District votes ‘no’ on controversial solicitor candidate


Harrisburg School District’s meeting was off to a contentious start on Monday. 

Three motions were made by board directors before the board reached any major agenda items.

The first motion was made by board director Brian Carter who asked to suspend Superintendent Dr. Sybil Knight-Burney and Acting Business Manager Bilal Hasan without pay until the district resolves a dispute with the Pennsylvania Department of Education over a financial audit. 

The second motion was made by Board Director Judd Pittman to comply with everything the department of education wants, including releasing information to a third-party for the financial audit.

Finally, Board Director Carrie Fowler made a motion asking to remove President Danielle Robinson from her position, citing a lack of transparency and her behaviors towards the district’s financial recovery officer, Dr. Janet Samuels, after the pair got into a verbal fight during’s last month’s meeting.

All three of the motions failed 5-3, with one abstain by the newest board director, Joseph Brown. 

Despite the commotion in the beginning of the night, the topic at the center of the meeting was the vote for an in-house solicitor. 

The board’s only candidate was James Ellison, who has been accused of wrongdoing and shady practices in several Pennsylvania districts, including Harrisburg.

In a 5-4 vote, the board voted to not appoint him, although he had several supporters in the room. 

“This foolishness that just took place right here? I know [Ellison] would not have allowed it. That I know. So you guys keep going back and forth, back and forth — why? Are you afraid that order is actually going to take place,” said Gina Johnson, city resident.

Board Director Lionel Gonzalez voted “no” on Ellison’s appointment, however, he typically votes with the four directors who were “yes” votes. 

After the vote was counted, district spokeswoman Kirsten Keys said Gonzalez asked to change his vote, but it was not allowed. 

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