State refers local coach’s case to prosecutors

Newspaper’s investigation prompted Ohio Department of Education response.

The state permit that allowed a Dayton Public Schools employee to coach Ponitz Career Tech teams the past two years appears to have been falsified, and state officials say they’ve referred the case to prosecutors.

Ohio Department of Education officials said Friday they’ve sent the facts surrounding Donte D. Murphy to both the Montgomery County prosecutor and the auditor of state. Murphy was fired by DPS this spring.

On May 13, this newspaper wrote that Murphy had neither the educational aide permit needed for the Ponitz classroom, nor the pupil activity permit needed to coach Ponitz's track team – roles he held until earlier this spring.

That evening, Dayton Public Schools officials disputed the story. District spokeswoman Jill Moberley emailed the newspaper a document she said she received from DPS Athletic Director Jonas Smith.

At first glance, the document appears to be an up-to-date three-year pupil activity permit that would allow Murphy to coach. The “issue date” on the document is Aug. 8, 2014.

But pupil activity permits bear the signature of the state superintendent. And Murphy’s “2014” permit, sent by the district in his defense, bears the signature of Stan Heffner, who was state superintendent from July 2011 to August 2012. Richard Ross was state superintendent in 2014.

The “issue date” on the dubious permit is Aug. 8, 2014, exactly one digit off from the date of Murphy’s previous, now-expired permit – Aug. 8, 2011.

This newspaper forwarded the dubious permit to ODE, asking how Murphy could have an active permit, when the state’s website showed no such permit. ODE officials confirmed Friday that upon seeing the discrepancy in the document sent by DPS, they involved other authorities.

“Donte D. Murphy does not have a valid Pupil Activity Permit or Educational Aide Permit with the State of Ohio,” ODE spokeswoman Brittany Halpin said in an e-mail. “Upon receiving an invalid 3 Year Pupil Activity Permit, the Ohio Department of Education has made referrals to both the Montgomery County Prosecutor and the Auditor of State. In addition, ODE’s Office of Educator Licensure has referred the issue to the department’s Office of Professional Conduct.”

Asked about the problem with the permit late Friday afternoon, Moberley said, “We will be examining the validity of that document.” Neither Murphy nor Smith could be reached for comment.

Tampering with records is a third-degree felony if the “record is kept by or belongs to a local, state, or federal governmental entity,” according to the Ohio Revised Code.

Murphy, who had been a coach in Dayton Public Schools since 2009, was arrested in March 2014 for soliciting a prostitute. He eventually pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct with a requirement that he go to “Johns School.”

The district hired him as an educational aide anyway in summer 2014, and kept him there even though the state declined his application for an aide permit. He coached Ponitz’s track team in 2015.

DPS officials confirmed last week that a newer, separate complaint against Murphy (unconnected to the state fraud concern) has been forwarded to Dayton Police and Children Services. Neither school officials nor police would discuss the nature of the complaint.

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