More questionable, large raises exposed at Prince George's County Public Schools

Three Prince George's County School Board members are exposing more questionable raises in the school's central office, alleging that the salary increases violate state law.

"Dr. [Kevin] Maxwell has ultimately approved three step (9.4 percent) and four step (16 percent) increases for select individuals in the central office," reads a letter from school board members Edward Burroughs, David Murray and Raaheela Ahmed to Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker.

The board members reference findings of an internal audit that investigated whether there were unauthorized raises given in the deputy superintendent's office. Board members say the latest audit found several additional cases of unauthorized raises. FOX 5 learned there are three raises in question, including one for a secretary who was already making more than $80,000 and received a salary increase to more than $95,000 a year.

"Combined with the unauthorized salary increases we wrote to you about in March 2018, there are now three separate departments receiving unauthorized salary increases. This is a reckless disregard for tax payer dollars in Prince George's County," the letter reads.

Under state law, the CEO of Prince George's County Public Schools has authority to hire and set salaries for his executive staff.

Board members say the raises identified in the latest audit violate the law because they required approval from the school board since the employees are not part of Schools CEO Dr. Maxwell's executive team.

School spokesman John White denied FOX 5's request to view the audit because he says the auditing process is not complete. White says a review and response to the document is pending. White also says, despite the language in state law, Dr. Maxwell has the power to give raises to a host of employees in central office if the increases are based on additional job responsibilities. On Tuesday, FOX 5 requested the specific policy that gives him those powers, but no such written policy has been provided.

The board received a verbal briefing on the audit results two weeks ago. After the briefing on April 12, a board spokeswoman told FOX 5 via email, "The Board was informed that these increases were not 'unauthorized.' The Board continues to be engaged in this process and will await results from the full audit."

This latest information comes after a series of raises in the central office came under scrutiny. First, it was exposed that there were six unauthorized raises given in the school system's Human Resources department. Dr. Maxwell claims he was unaware those raises were given and a spokesman says the salary increases have since been corrected.

Then, FOX 5 was first to report on massive salary increases for members of Maxwell's executive team, with some receiving increases between $35,000 and $50,000 in just a few years. While Maxwell had authority to give the raises, there has been intense scrutiny about the large percentage increases when teachers, principals and other schools staff typically receive three percent increases per year.

The raises prompted teacher protests, calls for a sickout and instatement of work-to-rule.

Dr. Maxwell has refused repeated requests for interviews about the executive staff raises. He has also not provided the detailed explanation requested by the full school board more than two weeks ago.

In their latest letter to Baker, which was also provided to FOX 5, the board members say the school system is in a crisis.

"We need your immediate intervention to resolve these management issues. Our students and employees deserve smart, forthcoming, honest, and ethical leadership. The mismanagement in PGCPS has been a distraction from the work and goals we have for our students. We are coming to you, to request your immediate intervention to resolve this issue, and hold leadership accountable for this wrongdoing," the letter reads.

County Executive Baker's office says Thursday that there was no comment.