BELLBROOK – The Bellbrook School Board called a special meeting on Saturday night after the district superintendent, two school board members and two former school board members were accused of embezzling government funds to promote an operating tax for the school district, according to the records of the municipal court of Xenia.
According to a district notice, the meeting will focus on “public accusations of alleged misconduct by a school employee and / or public officials.”
“Although not yet planned, any official action regarding the above will be taken in a public meeting after the executive session,” said the notice.
Superintendent Doug Cozad, 47, faces four counts of illegal transaction of public funds and four counts of dereliction of duty. The charges are first and second degree misdemeanors, according to court records.
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In October 2019, the Greene County Sheriff’s Office opened an incident report after “John Stafford entered the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, along with his attorney Derek Clinger, wishing to make a report regarding the misuse. public funds to advance a political agenda, ”according to the incident report obtained by WHIO on Friday.
The incident report states that “there is an allegation that public money is being sent to a Washington DC-based company called Allerton Hill.”
According to the report’s claims, the company was being used to consult with the Sugarcreek-Bellbrook School District on how to pass the next levy.
The Greene County Sheriff’s Office said the incident report was closed and referred to another agency for follow-up, but that agency was not disclosed.
Charges against Cozad and Bellbrook School Board Chairman David Carpenter, Board Member Virginia Slouffman and former School Board Members Elizabeth Betz and Kathy Kingston were filed in Xenia City Court on Thursday by the Fraud Investigator John Uhl with the State Auditor’s Special Investigations Unit.
After the May 7, 2019 operating tax was not passed, the district hired Allerton Hill Consulting and after the Ohio Auditor’s Special Investigations Unit investigated it was discovered ” on information and belief, Allerton Hill Consulting was hired to assist the school district in public communication and messaging with the goal of reviving and enacting another proposed operating tax, ”reads the affidavit filed in the case of Cozad.
“Cozad has approved and authorized the disbursement of public funds totaling $ 37,500 to Allerton Hill Consulting,” the affidavit states.
The allegations included in the criminal affidavit for Cozad’s case also indicated that the school district had conducted a telephone investigation that cost $ 15,000 that the auditor’s office found “on information and belief” was “designed. in order to revive and adopt another proposed operating levy “.
“Cozad reviewed and approved the survey questions as well as the disbursement of public funds totaling $ 15,000 to Fallon Research and Communication Inc.,” the affidavit reads.
Other allegations against Cozad concerned a report card.
“In or around March-April 2019, Douglas A. Cozad, the superintendent of local schools in Bellbrook-Sugarcreek, authorized the school district to send a newsletter to the public,” court records indicate. . “Public funds were used to pay for the newsletter which (in part) prominently stated ‘An investment in our schools is an investment in our community’ alongside an ad that the operating tax was included on the ballot of May 7, 2019. “
“Cozad was responsible for the language in the newsletter and authorized payment of government funds for its printing and mailing,” reads a criminal affidavit.
Carpenter, Slouffman, Betz and Kingston each face single counts of illegal transaction of public funds and dereliction of duty, according to court records online.
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The charges accuse Cozad, Betz, Carpenter, Kingston and Slouffman of authorizing the payment of public funds for a direct mail that “featured a photo of the board of directors with the headline” Keep up the excellence with the passing of number 4! another postcard titled “Important Number # 4!” “And ended by stating” Don’t forget to vote on May 7th! Polls open from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm Paid by the local Bellbrook-Sugarcreek school, according to the affidavit.
The total of the postcard and mail was $ 5,214.37, according to court records.
“I have no reason to believe or suspect that there is any truth to these allegations,” Carpenter told News Center 7 Thursday afternoon.
News Center 7 has contacted Cozad for comment and is awaiting their response.
Carpenter said he intends to stay with the school board for the time being and added that Cozad is still working for the district.
The Xenia City Court records obtained by News Center 7 are the only public records that can be released as a result of the investigation by the Ohio Auditor’s Office, according to a spokesperson.
“This case is an active criminal prosecution and the additional documents that form part of this investigation and prosecution constitute confidential law enforcement investigation files,” said Allison Dumski, auditor’s press secretary from Ohio, Keith Faber. “Our policy is not to discuss work in progress until it is completed and published by our office. “
News Center 7 has requested public documents from the Bellbrook Sugarcreek Schools, including copies of the newsletter, postcard and mail mentioned in the prosecution documents filed in court.
Tabitha Justice, civil and legal counsel for the local schools in Bellbrook Sugarcreek, said she was unable to communicate communications with the attorney’s clients at News Center 7, but said “we are not generally not called to review school newsletters and similar communications “.
Justice also said that “the cabinet represents the Board of Education on general school board legal and liability matters.”
“We are not doing criminal work in our company and will not deal with the Xenia municipal court case,” the judge said.
The special school board meeting will be held at the St. Pierre Education Center, 3757 Upper Bellbrook Road, at 7:00 p.m.
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