School District Sues Ex-Webmaster Christopher Akers for Fraud, Theft
Back in 2008, just a few months after Arlene Ackerman’s reign as Queen Bee of School District of Philadelphia began, Christopher Akers, seen here in his LinkedIn profile, was hired as the district’s full-time webmaster at a salary of just under $50,000. Well, six years later, Ackerman is gone (as in literally gone: she died in 2013) and Akers is being hauled into Philadelphia’s Federal Court by the cash-strapped district, which is alleging that he spent his taxpayer-funded time there developing apps for his own business.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed earlier this week in the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania, a forensic investigation of the computer in Akers’ school district office revealed that he began developing game apps called Comic Wars, Comic Babies and Teachers of Philly shortly after his employment began. All of those apps are currently available for purchase in iTunes, with Akers listed as the registered developer.
Akers also used his work computer during district hours to perform other duties related to outside business ventures, in violation of the district’s policy and Code of Ethics, the lawsuit alleges. Additionally, he accrued comp time within the district for time he spent on personal projects.
By 2011, claims the district, Akers’ productivity began a “drastic” decline. On one occasion outlined in the suit, Akers’ supervisor asked him why he had failed to complete a basic task, and Akers claimed that he was delayed due to fixing an issue with the school calendar. The supervisor looked into it and learned that he hadn’t done any work on the school calendar, and so the district began to take a closer look at Akers’ activities.
Akers was suspended in December 2011 and terminated shortly thereafter. But that didn’t stop him from trying to solicit business from the district under an alias, according to the suit.
After he was terminated, Akers allegedly sent an email under the name Zamir Summers (he’s also said to go by Lu Kaizhi and Rand Lu at times), trying to solicit business for another project, social networking site Appzhao, which Technically Philly covered shortly after its launch. The district now claims that Akers used its trademark on that page, and so they’ve hit him with trademark infringement as well.
Akers has stated in the past that teachersofphilly was actually assigned to him by an Ackerman aide (there’s an Ackerman character in it) and that he was tasked with other “secret” assignments that sometimes made him feel uncomfortable, but the district says it was not a district project and that it never received any proceeds from the paid downloads, which reportedly number over 70,000.
The district is suing Akers for trademark violations, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, misappropriation, fraud, unjust enrichment, among other things. Akers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.