Pompey deserved to be fired

August 24, 1994|By JOHN EISENBERG

There was only one thing wrong with the resolution of the Pete Pompey affair: It didn't make sense. None of it.

As reported in The Sun on Saturday, Pompey funneled some $51,000 of Dunbar's money into an unauthorized bank account he had set up when he was the athletic director and head basketball and football coach, then used some of the money on a series of questionable and undocumented expenditures, some blatantly personal as his electric bill.

He may have endangered the college eligibility of some of his former basketball players by paying for their SAT and ACT tests, for which hardship waivers are easily available.

He transferred more than $8,000 from his unauthorized account into his personal bank account.

Why wasn't he fired?

Would you be fired if you handled your company's money in such a fashion?

What does someone have to do to lose his job in the city school system of Superintendent Dr. Walter Amprey? More than the many and varied misdeeds Pompey committed, apparently. Because Amprey solved the problem not by firing Pompey, but by transferring him to a very decent job as the athletic director at Edmondson.

Sorry, but such a solution is neither sensible nor satisfactory.

Pompey was a terrific coach and an unethical administrator at Dunbar. He has been given a new job that is all administrative. Someone please explain where that makes any sense.

If you're not going to fire the guy, you make him a coach or phys ed teacher or something, but the one thing you don't do is put him in charge of the cookie jar again. Talk about condemning the fox to the hen house.

Oh, sure, Amprey said Pompey would have a "support system" to help him with (and monitor) the budget. In other words, none of the other law-abiding, understaffed and underfunded athletic directors gets help, but Pompey does because he cooked his books in his old job. Beautiful. Makes a ton of sense.

It was argued in this space last week that Pompey didn't deserve to return to his old job at Dunbar, for which he was brazenly campaigning, but should start fresh at another school. Amprey did exactly that. But when the damaging details of the state's attorney's investigation were published the next day -- details Amprey has known for quite a while -- it became clear that a transfer also was a bad idea.

What does it suggest to the students, teachers and parents at Edmondson when they're turned into "punishment" for a guy who played dirty at Dunbar? Hey, we'll stick you with the damaged goods. A great way to build esteem in the hallways.

Yes, Edmondson is the school at which Pompey made his name before coming to Dunbar. Perhaps he can crash-land softly there, among friends. But those in the school's constituency have every right to say, "If he wasn't good enough for Dunbar, why is he good enough for us?"

The truth, of course, is that a transfer isn't really punishment at all. As things stand now, Pompey hasn't been punished. Yes, he has suffered a loss of prestige and reportedly fought depression, which is unfortunate. But he hasn't missed a day's pay. He has been given a decent job.

For a guy who opened an unauthorized bank account through which flowed thousands of dollars that weren't his, he has been treated well.

Too well.

Why weren't his mistakes deemed suitable for firing? There are several reasons floating around.

One is that Amprey and Mayor Kurt Schmoke want no part of castigating and punishing a popular figure in the African-American community.

Another is that Amprey is protecting himself against a lawsuit, certainly an alternative to weigh considering that the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office chose not to indict Pompey after a 13-month investigation in which it uncovered the above litany of broken rules and unethical behavior.

But by choosing to treat Pompey delicately, almost as if nothing had happened, Amprey insults the hundreds of city teachers and coaches who walk their beats earnestly and play by the rules. They have every right to be upset at the double standard erected by their superintendent.

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