Bellbrook Schools superintendent, current and past board members face criminal charges

Criminal charges were filed Thursday in Xenia Municipal Court by the state auditor against five Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local Schools officials, including its superintendent and school board president. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
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Criminal charges were filed Thursday in Xenia Municipal Court by the state auditor against five Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local Schools officials, including its superintendent and school board president. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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Criminal charges were filed Thursday in Xenia Municipal Court against five Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local Schools officials, including its superintendent and school board president.

Superintendent Doug 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 Municipal Court records.

Board President David 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.

All of the charges filed in connection with a state auditor’s citation are related to alleged misuse of public funds during a May 2019 Bellbrook school levy campaign. The five are due for arraignment Nov. 17.

Ohio Auditor’s Office press secretary Allie Dumski said her office was appointed special prosecutor in the case but that “it is our policy not to discuss ongoing work.”

Cozad is accused of authorizing a mailing of a newsletter to the public, paid for with district funds around March or April 2019. At the bottom of one page, it said “Issue #4 invest in our kids’ future. Remember to vote on May 7,” according to documents filed Thursday.

Betz, Carpenter, Kingston and Slouffman, who all served on the school board at the time, signed a letter in April/May that was part of a mailer to district residents. The board post cards cost more than $3,200 and were paid for with district funds. Included in the mailer was a photograph of the board with the title “Continue the excellence with the passage of Issue 4 on May 7,” documents stated.

After the defeat of the May 7 levy, Cozad is accused of authorizing and approving the expenditure of public funds of $37,000 to hire Allerton Hill Consulting and $15,000 for a telephone survey conducted by Fallon Research and Communication Inc.

The consultant was hired to assist the district in public communication and messaging, and the survey was not limited to households with district children but included registered voters. Both firms were hired “for the purpose of reviving and passing another proposed operating levy,” the court documents stated.

“I don’t believe that there has been any wrongdoing of any sort,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter said he has no plans to step down from the board, and Cozad is still working for the district.

Cozad did not return a message requesting comment. Slouffman, Betz and Kingston could not be reached for comment.

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