Newark development organization hires controversial Baltimore official

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on March 19, 2015

Kevin Seawright resigned from a high ranking position in Baltimore's school system after The Baltimore Sun started asking questions about his academic credentials. He was recently hired by the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation.

 

NEWARK — A city-funded economic development organization has hired a former high-ranking official in Baltimore who abruptly resigned in 2011 after his academic credentials were questioned.

Kevin Seawright was hired as Newark Community Economic Development Corporation's executive vice president and chief financial officer, according to his LinkedIn account and the economic development organization. At NCEDC, he will make about $155,000 a year, Seawright said.

Seawright said he was the deputy chief operating officer for Baltimore Public Schools from 2005 until 2011.

He resigned in 2011 one day after The Baltimore Sun asked the school district to explain why he had degrees from two unaccredited institutions, according to the newspaper.

Seawright graduated with a bachelor's degree in accounting from Rocklands University and received an MBA from Almeda University. The two institutions "require little or no classroom work" and are referred to as diploma mills by academic watchdog groups, the newspaper said.

The mayor's office declined to comment.

Otis Rolley, who leads the NCEDC said he wasn't concerned about the Seawright's education credentials.

"I was not at all concerned about the controversy. It was not a controversy,"Rolley said. "He never lied about where he went to school or what degrees he had."

Rolley said he hired Seawright because of his extensive experience managing money and operations in the public sector. The two worked together when Rolley was the deputy housing commissioner in Baltimore, he said.

"I've been very impressed with his work ethic, with his skill set," Rolley said.

Seawright worked as the finance director of Baltimore's department of housing from 2002 to 2003. He then worked as the chief financial and facilities officer of Baltimore's department of recreation and parks from around 2003 to 2005, and as deputy chief of operations for Baltimore Public Schools from 2005 until 2011.

Seawright said the The Sun article came out during a "political time" in which it was publicly known that he was supporting Rolley's bid for mayor of Baltimore.

Maryland campaign finance records show that Seawright donated $100 in 2011 and $500 in 2010 to the Friends of Otis Rolley committee.

Seawright said he believes the accounting program in which he got his bachelor's degree was accredited at the time he received his diploma. Additionally, he said his experience in the field makes him qualified for the job.

"I have a lot of years of experience doing this," he said. "I have no question that I can do the job."

After working in the private sector, Seawright said he was glad to take on a role improving development in Newark.

"I believe in the city. I love working in city environments and revitalizing them," he said. "That's what I'm passionate about: fixing organizations and fixing cities."

The Newark Community Economic Development Corporation has experienced a reorganization in recent months. A highly critical report of the agency under its former name — the Brick City Development Corporation — showed that a total $3.4 million of $10.6 million in loans given out by the agency were either delinquent or written off as uncollectible.

So far, the organization has recouped about $500,000 more in loan payments that it was supposed to collect in 2013, including some settlements that will be paid over time, Seawright said.

"It hasn't been easy," he said of collecting the debt.

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