Bellbrook school board has ‘full confidence’ in superintendent following special meeting

Bellbrook High School on Upper Bellbrook Road in Sugarcreek Township. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

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Bellbrook High School on Upper Bellbrook Road in Sugarcreek Township. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

The Bellbrook school board says it has “full confidence” in Superintendent Doug Cozad to lead the district in the wake of charges filed against the superintendent, as well as past and current board members.

The board convened a special meeting to discuss allegations of misconduct Saturday night. A statement released after the meeting and signed by Bellbrook school board members Kevin Price, Audra Dorn, and Mike Kinsey says that the district is taking the matter seriously, and shares concerns about the claims made against its superintendent and board members.

However, the statement says, any personnel actions at this point would be “premature.”

“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,” it reads. “Many of you are already familiar with the complaint filed in 2019 that led to where we are today.”

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Five past and present Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local Schools officials, including Cozad and board president David Carpenter, have been charged in Xenia Municipal Court in connection with alleged misuse of public funds. An affidavit from Auditor of State fraud investigator John Uhl says Bellbrook school officials violated Ohio law, pointing to language the district used in levy mailers in the spring of 2019. Price, Dorn, and Kinsey all took office after the spring 2019 levy campaign.

Cozad, 47, faces eight misdemeanor charges, including four counts of illegal transaction of public funds and four counts of dereliction of duty, according to Xenia court records. Carpenter, board member Virginia Slouffman and past board members Liz Betz and Kathy Kingston were charged with one count each of illegal transaction of public funds and dereliction of duty.

Cozad released a statement of his own through his lawyer James Fleisher, who said that similar issues involving public funds are “invariably” addressed through administrative recovery and not through criminal prosecution.

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“The abrupt and unexpected action by the State Auditor to file criminal charges in a case of this nature is more than unusual,” Fleisher said. “To our knowledge, it has never happened before.”

All five are due to be arraigned on Nov. 17.

Both Carpenter and Slouffman will continue in their roles on the board. However, they will be recused from “discussion and voting on these legal matters,” per the school board statement.

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