Thackston, facing closure, and York City Schools outline their cases ahead of trial

David Weissman
York Dispatch
Students graduate during the Helen Thackston Charter School commencement at Hannah Penn K-8 Friday, June 1, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

Audits from the 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years will be at the center of a trial to determine whether Helen Thackston Charter School will exist for the 2018-19 school year.

The nonjury trial between Thackston and York City School District is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. Friday, June 15, at the York County Judicial Center.

More:LIVE: Thackston-York City School District court trial

The crux of the legal battle is whether Thackston complied with an agreement to turn in completed audits by turning in audit reports that came with a disclaimer, as Thackston's auditing firm noted missing documents prevented it from rendering an opinion on the financial situation of the charter school.

More:Thackston school's fate to be determined by judge's interpretation of completed audits

Facing charter revocation hearings, Thackston's board signed an agreement in October with the school district to close following the 2018-19 school year.

But the agreement included a clause that the school must close following the 2017-18 school year if it didn't complete and turn in the overdue audits by the end of January.

The district's school board, not satisfied with the disclaimer in those audits, authorized its solicitors in February to pursue legal action to ensure the closure of the charter school by the end of the current school year.

Thackston then sued the school district to stay open through 2018-19, and the school district countersued to close it this year.

Memorandums: Each entity has submitted an outline of its arguments, known as trial memorandums, to York County Court of Commons Pleas Judge Richard Renn, who will oversee the case.

Thackston is arguing that the school district, which drafted the agreement, did not specify what type of audit it wanted turned in to them and that a disclaimer audit is one of four potential outcomes of an audit.

Thackston's counsel also pointed out in its memorandum that the state Department of Education, which dictates policy for the school district, has accepted Thackston's audits.

Thackston was banned from participating in the state's School Nutrition Programs because of missing audits, but it has since been reinstated after receiving the disclaimer audits conducted by St. Clair CPA Solutions.

In its memorandum, the school district lays out a timeline of its attempts to get Thackston's overdue audits and argues that the disclaimers do not constitute completed audits.

Before hiring St. Clair after the agreement was signed, Thackston had been engaging Citrin Cooperman to complete its overdue audits.

More:Thackston Charter board hires new auditor as more deadlines loom

More:Thackston Charter approves latest audit, cites improvement

The district quotes a letter in its memorandum that it received from Citrin Cooperman in April 2017 that an audit can typically be completed in four to six weeks, but they were missing information from Thackston.

The district notes that it still needs to hire sufficient staff and ready its facilities to accept a likely influx of Thackston students if the school is forced to close.

The district also is seeking for Thackston to pay its attorney fees and other expenses in litigating this matter, which have already exceeded $56,000, according to the memorandum.

Thackston solicitor Brian Leinhauser did not respond to requests for comment, and a spokeswoman for the district declined to comment about the pending trial.

York City Schools Superintendent Eric Holmes gives an update on his district during a news conference regarding the Campaign for Fair Education Funding at the York City School administrative building in York City, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Thackston will be barred from discussing any other York City charter school's audits or the district's audits after Renn granted the district's motion to preclude testimony related to those subjects on the basis of their irrelevance to this trial.

District Superintendent Eric Holmes acknowledged in his deposition that the district had not yet received Lincoln Charter School's audit from the 2013-14 school year.

GeoSource: In his deposition, Holmes also broaches the subject of an alleged $130,000 contract that Thackston awarded to a firm run by its board president in 2013, one of the issues the district mentioned as it voted to proceed to revocation hearings.

The district's allegation about the contract with GeoSource Capital did not specifically mention the board member — providing only the initials M.M. — but an investigation by The York Dispatch found the person to be former Thackston Board President Michael Mehosky.

More:WATCHDOG REPORT: Thackston Charter contracted with firm started by board president

More:Former Thackston board president responds to allegations

Contacted by The York Dispatch via email in July, Mehosky has stated that he sold his interest in the company, which he co-founded, before the contract and that he would provide documentation proving that assertion.

But he never provided any documentation to The York Dispatch and stopped responding to emails.

Holmes brings up the contract in his deposition as a reason why the district found it so important to receive independent financial audits from Thackston.

Thackston officials have told the district and The York Dispatch — in response to a Right-to-Know request — that they can find no documentation relating to the contract with GeoSource.

Upon questioning from Thackston's solicitor, Holmes revealed in his deposition that one of the district's sources for information about GeoSource was Kimberly Kirby, Thackston's former business manager.

Kimberly Lynette Kirby, former business manager for Helen Thackston Charter School

Kirby was charged with felony theft by York City Police in March 2017 after allegedly stealing more than $12,000 from the school.

More:Thackston Charter School's former biz manager charged with felony theft

Her pretrial conference hearing is scheduled for June 20, according to court documents. She could not be reached for comment.

— Reach reporter David Weissman at or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.