Judge to ex-Tipp athletic director: ‘Accept that what you did was wrong’

Published: Thursday, May 03, 2018 @ 12:06 PM
Updated: Thursday, May 03, 2018 @ 2:27 PM

            Matt Shomper
Matt Shomper

Former Tipp City Schools athletic director Matt Shomper pleaded no contest Thursday to a misdemeanor charge for hiring family members to work at school athletic events and was sentenced by a Miami County judge who told him “you have to accept that what you did was wrong.”

Shomper, 47, was found guilty of misrepresentation by a present or former public official or employee by Judge Gary Nasal of county Municipal Court. Shomper was accused of hiring family members to work at athletic events between June 2014 and May 2015. The case involved $1,700 paid to three relatives, the judge was told Thursday.

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Shomper resigned under an agreement with the Tipp City Exempted Village Schools Board of Education in May 2016.

He was sentenced Thursday to a $500 fine and court costs, a suspended 90-day jail term and 35 hours of community service. The jail was suspended on the condition he has no similar offense.

Shomper, who had been athletic director since 2006, cried as he told Nasal that athletics was his passion. He said he hired family members because others offered the opportunity to help at tournament games declined.

“All of them were emergency cases where people would not step up. We can’t run a game without a scoreboard operator, without ticket takers,” Shomper said. He and defense lawyer James Ambrose said the board of education and administrators knew of the practice and that “most athletic directors in Ohio do this.”

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Ambrose and Shomper said the allegations were a hardship on Shomper and his family and that Shomper was not allowed on school property during the investigation, which was during a son’s senior year.

Ambrose called the case “much ado about nothing.”

Shomper said he would not have hired the relatives if he knew it was illegal.

Robert A. Smith, a special prosecutor from the Ohio state auditor’s office, said the Supreme Court has ruled ignorance of the law is not a defense and that charges are justified in situations such as this if the amount of money involved is more than nominal.

“You have to accept what you did was wrong. The fact everybody else does it and gets away with it, doesn’t make it right,” Nasal said.

The judge said he realized Shomper probably was shunned in the community but added the reaction “was because of what you did.”

Jail time, Nasal said, wouldn’t serve any purpose. “I think your lesson has been learned,” he said.

Shomper was placed on paid leave in early 2016 while police investigated a complaint filed by Superintendent Gretta Kumpf after irregularities were found by state auditors in a district audit.

The investigation included local police, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the State Auditor’s Office and the Ohio Ethics Commission. When search warrants were filed, police said the investigation involved inconsistencies allegedly found in school athletic department accounts and expanded to include Shomper’s personal travel agency business. No charge was filed in relation to that business.

The misdemeanor charge was filed by Tipp City police earlier this year.