Charter School Founder Accused of Diverting Millions to Himself
WASHINGTON — The founder of one of the oldest and largest charter school networks in the District of Columbia used a for-profit management company he owns to funnel millions of school funds to himself, according to a legal complaint filed Monday.
The allegations, filed by D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan, center on Kent Amos, who founded Dorothy I. Height Community Academy Public Charter School as a nonprofit organization in 1998. The group serves more than 1,600 students at four campuses and an online school.
According to the complaint, Amos’ management company received $13 million in school funds since 2004 and is on track to receive another $2 million this year. The complaint says the management company used its fee from the school to make loans to one of its co-owners and made monthly loan payments of $1,148 on a 2010 Lexus SUV registered to Amos.
Nathan’s filing in D.C. Superior Court alleges the company received millions in fees for work that “could have been performed, and in many cases was actually performed, by direct employees of the school.” In a statement, Nathan vowed to “fight manipulation and abuse of the Charter school system that cheats the District and federal taxpayers.”
Charter schools are allowed to contract with for-profit management companies. But the complaint alleges Amos used the management company as a shell company to divert tax dollars to himself.
Frederick D. Cooke Jr., an attorney for Amos, denied the allegations and told The Washington Post (http://wapo.st/1pOFmi4 ) that the business agreements are legal.
“Our position is that the claims made by the attorney general are without merit,” Cooke said.
On Tuesday, the school’s board issued a statement saying it is cooperating with the attorney general and is conducting its own investigation.
“It is important to note that nothing in this lawsuit alleges that any impropriety whatsoever has been committed by the school nor is the school named in the lawsuit,” school board Chairman Ernest Green said.
This is the second D.C. charter school to come under scrutiny in the past year over allegations of funneling tax dollars to companies with ties to school leaders. The District also sued Options Public Charter School in October, alleging that its former leaders diverted millions to for-profit companies they owned.
The D.C. Public Charter School Board said Monday that it would evaluate the allegations. Executive Director Scott Pearson said no action concerning the school will be taken over the summer, so families and students should feel confident it will operate as planned next year.
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