Hogan Calls City Schools Paying Principal in Kuwait “Outrageous”

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BALTIMORE -- WBFF -- Governor Larry Hogan is speaking out after a Project Baltimore investigation found City Schools was paying a six-figure salary to a principal at a school in Kuwait.

Governor Hogan told Project Baltimore he was watching Monday as Fox45 reported that City Schools was paying two principals at one school - both earning six-figure salaries.

One of those principals was Muriel Cole-Webber who was the principal of Edmondson Westside High School in 2016. For some reason, she left the school. But she was still on the payroll in early 2018, earning $117,906 a year. Our investigation also found Webber wasn’t even in the country for part of that time. She was listed as the principal of a school 6,500 miles away in Kuwait.

“I was shocked and taken aback by it. I thought it was outrageous,” said Gov. Larry Hogan. “It goes to the thing your investigations have been uncovering, all these issues and problems in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, and we’ve been pushing for more accountability. Everyone talks about more funding, and we can talk about that. But what we want to talk about is more accountability with these local school systems with all these seemingly ridiculous things that are going on. This is just the most recent of many things we are frustrated with.”

When asked how that accountability happens, Gov. Hogan responded, “We are going to push for legislation to give us more accountability. We put someone in place who is an independent monitor, like your Project Baltimore, they can come to us with any kind of concern or allegations, and we can investigate them. We are pushing to put a little more teeth in the state level. We don’t want to take over the decisions of the local school boards. But we want to make sure if we are going to give $25 billion in money to local schools that they are following the law and not doing things that are inappropriate, improper, unethical or illegal.”

Following Fox45’s initial investigation on Oct. 29, Project Baltimore also heard from North Avenue. Fox45 first contacted City Schools with questions about Webber’s employment six months ago in April. We contacted them many times since then, but they said it’s a personnel matter and would not comment. But that all changed Oct. 31, when Project Baltimore received an email from City Schools.

It explained that Webber was on active assignment as principal of Edmondson until February 2017. She resigned in January 2018. So, City Schools is confirming Webber was paid as principal of Edmondson for at least 11 months even though she was not there.

The email reads:

“The speculation and uncorroborated, anonymous assertions in the most recent Project Baltimore story ("City Schools pays six-figure salaries to principal in Kuwait") contain factual inaccuracies with misleading implications. City Schools requests that the story be immediately and publicly corrected.

Most egregiously, the story relies on a single unnamed source to assert that former employee Muriel Cole-Webber was on the payroll for 15 months with no work assignment. Ms. Cole-Webber was on active assignment as principal of Edmondson-Westside High School until February 2017. She resigned 11 months later, in January 2018. Based on basic mathematics, assertions in the story are simply wrong.

In the interests of transparency and public accountability, City Schools posts salaries of all employees on a freely available public website. Although the district does not comment on personnel matters related to specific employees, it can be noted that a staff member on vacation, family, medical, administrative, or other types of leave retains the title of her or his last active assignment for reporting purposes in that database. Staff members may also continue to earn salary while on leave, depending on the nature and type of leave.

That being said, City Schools takes seriously any allegation of impropriety and encourages anyone who suspects inappropriate or illegal activity on the part of any staff member to report it directly to the district, so that it can be appropriately investigated and resolved.” - Anne Fullerton, Executive Director, Communications, Baltimore City Public Schools.

The timeline City Schools has now offered is a few months different than what multiple sources have told Fox45. But either way, Webber was paid a six-figure salary for about a year while she was not a City Schools principal.

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