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Brockton schools finance officer notifies officials of whistle-blower claim after he was put on leave

A longtime financial officer for the Brockton school district began ringing alarms about overspending and a potential budget shortfall as early as July 2022, more than a year before officials announced a $14 million deficit last month, according to the man’s attorney and emails he shared with the Globe.

Christopher Correia, who has worked in the district for more than 20 years as an assistant financial officer, notified officials Friday of his intent to file a claim under the state whistle-blower protection act, saying he was placed on leave as retaliation for raising his concerns, according to a letter to officials from Timothy M. Burke, a Needham attorney representing Correia.


Correia repeatedly urged school district leaders to curb spending and slow down hiring over the last 15 months and to alert the school committee to the situation, but his warnings “of an impending financial disaster” were ignored, according to Burke. After the problems came to a head last month, he was placed on leave and has been ridiculed and demeaned by local officials for his conduct, Burke said.

“He’s being scapegoated for the failures of his supervisors for not doing what he repeatedly said needed to be done to avoid the financial crisis that came about,” Burke said.

Mayor Robert Sullivan announced Sept. 6 that Correia and his boss were on administrative leave as officials launched an investigation into the shortfall. The mayor said then that he had learned about the deficit on Aug. 8.

Jess Hodges, a spokesperson for Brockton Public Schools, said officials are “unable to comment at this time,” calling the issue a “personnel matter.”

“It is common district practice for those directly involved in an internal investigation to be placed on leave so as to maintain the integrity of the investigatory process,” Hodges said in a statement. “Placing the leaders of the Finance Department on paid leave during an independent external audit of the district’s finances should in no way be misconstrued as an assumption of culpability.”


Sullivan, who chairs the school committee, said the city has received Correia’s letter and “it will be reviewed.”

“We will be conducting an independent external audit of the school department’s finances,” Sullivan said in a statement.

The earliest email cited by Correia and his attorney is dated July 21, 2022. In it, he asks his boss, Chief Financial Officer Aldo Petronio, about setting up a meeting with Superintendent Michael P. Thomas and Sullivan to discuss the school’s finances. Noting that they already were expecting a budget shortfall, Correia wrote in the email, “We need to implement conservative spending policies in order to avoid major cuts and layoffs.”

Correia continued to raise concerns about the district’s finances in further emails to Petronio in the ensuing months, with Correia showing an increased level of alarm in each message.

By April, he was warning Petronio of a “budget crisis” and projected a $13 million shortfall for 2023.

“It pains me to report that the situation has become quite critical,” he wrote.

One email references an “emergency Budget meeting” with the superintendent on March 20, when he apparently approved a hiring freeze and a halt to overtime and additional compensation.

But, Correia wrote, “I’m afraid those measures were taken too late to produce a positive impact on the current budget deficit.”

On Aug. 6, he made a final plea to Petronio to alert the School Committee about the shortfall and to schedule an emergency meeting.


“This crisis has weighed on me heavily, Aldo,” Correia wrote. “Not only has it created a toxic and impossible work environment, but it has also negatively affected my health in the form of dangerously high blood pressure and anxiety.”

In a response the next day, Petronio wrote that he had requested a meeting with top officials “to present your findings on how large the shortfall is,” according to the emails released by Correia and his attorney.

“Your work and dedication on the budget and expenses is and has always been exemplary and will will now move forward with the highest concerns on creating and maintaining a balanced budget,” the email said.

Sarah Ryley of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Nick Stoico can be reached at Follow him @NickStoico.