Pompey casts eyes on old job

August 07, 1994|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Sun Staff Writer

Suspended Dunbar High School coach Pete Pompey, cleared of the threat of criminal charges after months of investigation into his alleged mishandling of school funds more than a year ago, wants his old job back.

"I just want to return to Dunbar High School," Mr. Pompey, accompanied by his lawyer, William H. Murphy Jr., said yesterday. "I'd like to see us get back on top as No. 1."

Mr. Pompey had been football and basketball coach and athletic director at the East Baltimore school until July 17, 1993, when he was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the probe.

"We'd like to see Pete get the support he needs from the city and education department," Mr. Murphy said. "I don't think Pete's been treated fairly. He's been punished inordinately. He ought to be welcomed."

Mr. Pompey and Mr. Murphy called a news conference yesterday to say, too, that they will be meeting later this week with Baltimore schools Superintendent Dr. Walter G. Amprey to demand Mr. Pompey's job back.

The superintendent had said Friday that Mr. Pompey "probably" would not return to the school.

After a 13-month investigation, Mr. Pompey learned Friday that the Baltimore state's attorney will not pursue criminal charges.

Dr. Amprey was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Mr. Pompey, 54, came under investigation when school officials said several thousand dollars was missing from a Dunbar-operated concession stand that Mr. Pompey supervised at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Although exonerating Mr. Pompey from criminal wrongdoing, State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms on Friday criticized the high school coach's bookkeeping practices, saying the investigation showed "a pattern and practice by Mr. Pompey of undocumented expenditures, poor management and an avoidance of accountability."

During yesterday's news conference, Mr. Murphy said Mr. Pompey should have received more help in keeping track of the money from the concession stand.

He said Mr. Pompey's job performance rating should not be based on his bookkeeping practices.

"You don't remove the No. 1 high school basketball coach in the country just because he isn't a bookkeeper," Mr. Murphy said. "You just don't treat a national treasure like this."

Since Mr. Pompey left Dunbar last summer, the school's basketball team has slipped from its first-place national ranking in 1992 to No. 5 this year, Mr. Murphy said. He insisted there's room at the school for Mr. Pompey.

During his year-long administrative leave, Mr. Pompey has kept busy with Southeast Baltimore schools, participating in a tutoring program with middle school students and visiting several schools to inspect their physical plants.

Asked if he missed coaching at Dunbar, Mr. Pompey replied: "That's hard to explain. How much do you miss dinner when you're hungry? I miss all the kids at Dunbar."

As basketball coach at Dunbar, Mr. Pompey guided one of the nation's top-ranked high school programs. In 1992, Dunbar finished 29-0 and was rated No. 1 by USA Today, which also picked Mr. Pompey as national high school basketball coach of the year.

Mr. Pompey, who started coaching at Dunbar in 1986, said his return would mean "a lot more Sam Cassells, Keith Booths and Donta Brights" -- all former Dunbar basketball stars who have gone on to play at major colleges.

The private meeting between Mr. Pompey and Dr. Amprey is scheduled for Thursday or Friday at school headquarters, Mr. Murphy said.

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