HARRISBURG - A former state Education Department spokesman committed ethics violations after he left his state job and also improperly used a school district credit card for personal expenses in a previous job, the State Ethics Commission has ruled.
The commission ordered Keith Pierce to repay more than $14,000 he received as a result of the violations. He was ordered to pay more than $12,000 of that amount to the state and the rest to the Lancaster School District.
In a ruling made public yesterday, the commission found that Pierce illegally tried to secure state grant money for a Westmoreland County school district that hired him as a grant writer shortly after he left his job as the department's communications director.
Pierce's lawyer, Sam Stretton, said Pierce acknowledged the conduct and would repay the funds if he has not done so already.
State law bars former state employees for one year from being paid to represent entities who do business with their former agencies.
Pierce joined the state Education Department in 2003. He left in July 2004 to form Pierce Communications, a Wayne company providing communications and grant-writing services to school districts.
The Penn-Trafford School District paid Pierce's communications company $55,000 under a one-year contract that began in September 2004, the ethics commission said. Of that amount, he received $12,375 between November 2004 and January 2005, when he was meeting with Education Department officials to discuss the district's request for grant money, the commission said.
Before working for the state, Pierce worked for the Lancaster School District.
During his time there, Pierce improperly incurred $1,800 in personal expenses, including school district credit card charges for meals and merchandise such as compact discs, the commission said. The expenses also included roughly $500 for time spent by district staff during business hours to duplicate Christmas CDs for Pierce to distribute in 2002, the commission said.
At one point, he reimbursed the district for certain expenses after an official warned him against using the card for personal transactions, but continued to make such purchases, the commission said.