Bellbrook Superintendent, school board members criminally charged enter pleas in court

BELLBROOK — The Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local Schools Superintendent, two school board members and two former school board members have pleaded not guilty to criminal charges filed by the Ohio Auditor’s Office.

Superintendent Doug Cozad, School Board President David Carpenter, school board member Virginia Slouffman and former board members Elizabeth Betz and Kathy Kingston entered their pleas in Xenia Municipal Court Tuesday, online records show.

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All of them were accused of illegal transaction of public funds and dereliction of duty surrounding the way district money was reported to have been spent around the May 2019 school levy, according to court records.

The charges against Cozad, Carpenter, Slouffman, Betz and Kingston were filed in Xenia Municipal Court earlier this month by Fraud Investigator John Uhl with the Auditor of State’s Special Investigations Unit.

Cozad faces four counts each of illegal transaction of public funds and dereliction of duty. Carpenter, Slouffman, Betz, and Kingston each are facing single counts of illegal transaction of public funds and dereliction of duty, online court records show.

“I have no reason to believe or suspect that there is any truth to these allegations,” Carpenter told News Center 7.

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Bellbrook School Board members Kevin Price, Audra Dorn and Mike Kinsey released a joint statement after meeting in executive session for several hours during a special board meeting held the Saturday after the charges were filed.

“We are taking this issue very seriously and will closely follow this matter as it works its way through the legal system,” Price, Dorn and Kinsey wrote in a letter. “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.”

Cozad’s attorney said the Superintendent “is a decent and law-abiding educator who is deeply concerned about these unfounded allegations. He fully intends to vigorously defend the claims against him. Doug remains dedicated to complying with the laws and guidance for school districts, and he has always strived to be ethical in his decision-making about how public dollars are spent.”

Cozad’s attorney said the case is “strictly a regulatory matter.”

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

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