BROCKTON, MASS. (WHDH) - Christopher Correia has worked for 22 years as the Brockton Public Schools’ assistant financial officer. As word got out that the district overspent its 2023 budget by $14 million, though, Correia was put on paid leave.
Now, attorney Timothy Burke has said he plans to file a whistleblower lawsuit against the city of Brockton and its school committee on Correia’s behalf, claiming Correia sounded alarms about the district’s overspending for months.
“He’s been cast in the light that, somehow, he didn’t do his job when it’s just the exact opposite,” Burke said. “The only one doing their job and who the public should be commending is Chris Correia.”
Burke recently provided nearly 20 of Correia’s emails dating back as far as July of 2022 about issues with the public school budget.
One email on July 21, 2022 explains in part, “We cannot continue to enter into contracts that we haven’t accounted for in the current budget.”
“If we don’t get a handle on this transportation budget and address the management issues in that department, we are headed for a very serious budget shortfall for Fiscal Year 2023,” Correia warns in one other email on Oct. 29, 2022.
In an email dated March 28, Correia offered a suggestion.
“We continue to receive police detail invoices for traffic duty,” he said. “I recommend that we terminate these details…the budget cannot support these additional expenditures.”
On July 27, 2023, Correia raised a red flag, saying “We cannot afford to pay staff that were not budgeted. This is beyond irresponsible.”
“He’s been made the scapegoat, if you will, for all of the failures of his supervisors in both the city and school district level,” Burke said.
Brockton Mayor Robert Sullivan announced the $14 million budget deficit late last month.
The questions of what school officials knew and when officials knew such information is now under investigation.
“I maintain that I was made aware of this emergency by Mr. Correia and Mr. Petronio in my office here on Aug. 8,” Sullivan recently said.
Speaking about the issue, Sullivan said he is more focused on getting to the bottom of how the deficit came about and keeping the school running.
“As Mayor and as a product of the Brockton Public Schools, my goal right now is how to fix it and make sure it can never ever happen again,” Sullivan said.
The Brockton School Committee on Sept. 1 voted to hire an independent investigator to look into the 2023 budget and determine what went wrong. The committee’s meeting, in turn, came a day after a spokesperson for the Brockton Public Schools said Superintendent Mike Thomas informed the school committee that he needed to take an extended medical leave.
In addition to the private investigator, the school committee on Sept. 1 voted to appoint Dr. James Cobbs as an acting superintendent.
Thomas later spoke to 7NEWS, admitting he spent too much money on staffing while defending the decisions he made.
7NEWS asked Burke what Correia wants as he files the whistleblower complaint in this case. Burke said someone should take financial responsibility.
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