A Pennsylvania school board official made explosive new allegations Tuesday at the first meeting since two administrators stepped down over racist text messages, claiming the board's acting superintendent was the mystery third texter in the N-word-laden exchange.
Last month, the Coatesville school board accepted the resignations of Coatesville Area School District Superintendent Richard Como and Director of Athletics and Activities Jim Donato. Como and Donato resigned from their posts after an IT staffer who was fixing Donato’s phone discovered text messages containing the N-word.
Acting Assistant Superintendent Dr. Teresa Powell, one of two employees who discovered the text messages, publicly stated during Tuesday night’s meeting that she was offered a promotion if she would remain quiet about the texts. Powell also claimed the acting superintendent, Angelo Romaniello, was the mystery “third texter” who took part in inappropriate exchanges with Como and Donato. Finally, Powell claimed tens of thousands of dollars was missing, related to football team rings.
Romaniello denied the accusations against him when confronted by NBC10's George Spencer after the meeting.
The accusations came the same night a group of about 25 protesters marched through Coatesville, demanding the resignations of all the school board members.
Many in the community were angered that the board didn’t fire Como and Donato even though it would have led to a lengthy and costly legal battle.
The district said it started the process to fire the pair once the text messages were found, but that the men resigned pending the board's approval. During Tuesday night's meeting, the board admitted Como was paid $70,000 in unused sick and vacation time before leaving.
During the meeting last month, the nine-member board voted to accept their resignations. The only dissenting vote was School board member and Coatesville Area NAACP Chapter President Dr. Tonya Thames Taylor, who left the meeting early.
NBC10 approached Taylor on Tuesday and asked if she was considering resigning. Taylor only smiled and did not say anything. NBC10 asked the same question to school board member Diane Brownfield.
“I haven’t made any plans at this point,” Brownfield said.
The messages, first reported by The Daily Local of West Chester and later obtained by NBC10 Philadelphia, were uncovered by the district IT employee before the start of the school year, according to officials. That employee brought it to the attention of the school board on Aug. 18, prompting Como and Donato to later resign. Chester County prosecutors eventually launched a criminal investigation and asked that more than 100 pages of transcripts be turned over to detectives.
"All should just have whatever first names they want...then last name is N-----! Leroy N-----, Preacher N-----, Night train n-----, Clarence n-----, Latoya n-----, Thelma n----- and so on," read one message sent from Donato’s phone on the night of June 4.
"Great idea! Joe n----- bill n----- snake n----- got a nice ring to it," Como replied.
“hahahahahahahahahahahaha could have whole homerooms of N-----,” came another message from Como’s phone.
“hahahahahahahahaha! Will N----- report to office, pardon the interruption but will N----- report to nurses office. N----- to lunch now!” Donato said.
Amid the racist messages were also conversations about district money.
"Gonna give them til Aug 1st to raise coin still want district to give at least 40k on top," wrote Donato in one of the texts.
Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan told NBC10 Philadelphia that prosecutors have spent several months looking at whether Como and Donato were skimming district cash.
Sources say concerned parents went to prosecutors four months ago asking officials to look into potential financial wrongdoing in the district. The discovery of the text messages came months later.
"There are references in these texts about financial improprieties of missing money," Hogan said.
Hogan said an electronic forensics team has been deployed to look for additional evidence, but would not elaborate further citing the on-going investigation.
Como, a longtime and well-liked administrator, shocked the school community when he abruptly resigned from his post in the beginning of the school year on Aug. 29. Donato left his job the same day. Coatesville is a predominately black community and both Como and Donato are white.
It's unknown at this time whether Como and Donato will be paid their pensions. School leaders say that will be up to a state pension board and that only potential criminal charges could stop the payouts.