XENIA — The Bellbrook-Sugarcreek school board said it has “full confidence” in Superintendent Dr. Doug Cozad in light of charges of illegal transaction of public funds and dereliction of duty.
Cozad, 47, faces four counts of each regarding alleged actions during the district’s 2019 operating levy campaign. Illegal transaction of public funds is a first-degree misdemeanor while dereliction of duty is a second-degree misdemeanor according to court documents.
The charges, filed in Xenia Municipal Court last week by the Auditor of State’s Special Investigations Unit, allege that Cozad was responsible for the language in a newsletter sent to the district and authorized the payment of government funds for its printing an mailing in addition to authorizing the use of public funds to hire Allerton Hill Consulting to assist in “reviving and passing” another proposed operating levy which included a phone survey after the levy failed in May.
Current board members David Carpenter and Virginia Slouffman and former board members Kathy Kingston and Elizabeth Betz were also charged with one count transaction of public funds and dereliction of duty for allegedly approving expenditures. Cozad and the board members will continue in their current roles, the board said after a special meeting Saturday night.
“As a quorum of board members, we have full confidence in the ability of Superintendent Doug Cozad to lead our district,” Kevin Price, Audra Dorn, and Mike Kinsey said in a statement. “Additionally, David Carpenter and Virginia Slouffman will continue in their roles on the board. However, they will be recused from discussion and voting on these legal matters. To take any personnel actions at this time would be premature.”
According to court documents, more than $57,000 in public funds were used.
“It is very important for the community to consider that the charges against the superintendent, two of the five current board members, and two previous board members do not involve allegations of personal financial gain or benefit,” the three board members said. “Our district takes seriously its responsibility to be good stewards of public funds and to comply with all relevant laws and guidance regarding levy campaigns. We understand and share concerns about the recent claims involving the district, its employees, and its board members that have been publicized by the news media.
Price, Dorn, and Kinsey referenced a Jan. 16, 2020 school board meeting posted on youtube for “context and understanding.”
During the meeting, district legal counsel Tabitha Justice updated the board on three legal cases and one-by-one refuted the several claims made in a 2019 complaint filed with the Ohio Elections Commission.
“We are taking this issue very seriously and will closely follow this matter as it works its way through the legal system,” Price, Dorn, and Kinsey said. “While we cannot comment on legal actions involving district personnel, it is important for you to know that we remain focused on providing a high-quality education for our students and minimizing any disruption to learning during this time.”
The four are set to be arraigned Nov. 17, according to court records.