ALTHOUGH John Porter may not have found a horse's head in his bed, it was clear that former School Reform Commission Chairman Robert Archie and state Rep. Dwight Evans wanted his charter-school company to disappear, according to a long-awaited report released yesterday.
Joan Markman, the city's chief integrity officer, found that Archie's public recusals were "meaningless" and that he worked behind the scenes with Evans to keep Martin Luther King High School under the control of Foundations Inc.
Markman's report, which includes information gathered from interviews with more than 30 people, details how Evans refused to engage with a parent-led School Advisory Council and"mounted a sustained back-channel effort" for Foundations.
The saga began in March when Evans began to lobby officials, including Archie, a longtime friend, and former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.
He wanted Foundations to keep the school, despite almost a decade of poor academic results, instead of giving it to Mosaica, a Georgia-based company that was the first choice of parents and the SRC to run the school as a charter this year. Foundations has made thousands in campaign contributions to Evans.
Minutes after the SRC approved Mosaica's taking over the school on March 16, Archie directed then-Deputy Superintendent Leroy Nunery II to call Mosaica's John Porter into a meeting.
Evans reportedly told Porter that he refused to work with the company and that Mosaica would get in the way of his plans for education in the area.
"Immediately after that meeting, Nunery described it to [then-Superintendent Arlene] Ackerman . . . as like something out of the movie 'The Godfather,' " the report said, noting that Porter was "in shock."
Nunery told investigators that "Archie told Porter . . . that this is Philadelphia, and suggested that things are different here."
Mosaica pulled out of the plan the next day. Foundations pulled out in April after details of the secret meeting were first reported by the Philadelphia Public School Notebook and NewsWorks.
More than a month later, Mayor Nutter called for the investigation.
Both Archie and Evans emphatically denied the findings in separate statements released yesterday.
Archie said the report "went out of its way" to draw "unsubstantiated" conclusions, and he pointed out what he said were inconsistencies.
"They are not supported by fact and are a reach to say the least," he said in a statement. "In some cases, they are pure fiction."
Archie maintains that his involvement was focused on bringing Mosaica and Evans together, and called the account Ackerman gave to investigators "troubling."
Evans said he was "stunned" that he had been characterized as a "puppet master." "The report . . . while written to suggest nefarious maneuvers, simply supports activities that have been well-documented for months," he wrote.
Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said, "We stand by the report."
After Mosaica backed out, Ackerman told investigators that Evans kept pressuring her to back Foundations, including in a meeting set up by Archie at his law firm, Duane Morris.
Zack Stalberg, head of watchdog group Committee of Seventy, said the report fell short by not recommending sanctions.
"If there are no consequences for their conduct, they and others in the public arena will continue to believe they can act with impunity," he said in a statement. He urged an investigation by the state attorney general and District Attorney Seth Williams.
Rhonda Lauer, Foundations' chief executive, said that Evans' intentions were sincere.
"It's important to have political champions," she said. "I think that having politicians passionate about public education is an important thing."
School Advisory Council chairwoman Conchevia Washington said she wasn't surprised with the findings.
"What will bring closure for us is for Mayor Nutter to do the right thing and make sure that the last appointment to the SRC has a genuine interest in the children," she said.
She said she hopes that the state Department of Education and Gov. Corbett look into the report as well.
"We're heading in the right direction, but things like this can't get swept under the rug because it can happen again," she said.