State recommends plea deal in Superintendent of Bellbrook case

To explorePrevious Cover: Criminal Charges Against Bellbrook School Officials Unique, State Group Says

Cozad, 47, faces four counts of illegal transaction of public funds and four counts of dereliction of duty, which are first and second degree torts, respectively.

The case concerns the alleged use of public school district funds to impose a tax levy. Ohio law prohibits “political subdivisions” such as school districts and cities from using taxpayer money in any way that “supports or opposes … the passage of a tax or bond issue ”.

Cozad is accused of authorizing the sending to the public of school levy newsletters, paid for with district funds around March or April 2019. An affidavit from the state fraud investigator’s auditor , John Uhl, indicates in an example that the district used $ 5,214 of public money to send messages saying “Continuing excellence with the passage of number 4.”

After the May 2019 tax defeat, 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.

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The consultant was hired to assist the district in public communication and messaging. The two companies were hired “for the purpose of reviving and enacting another proposed operating tax,” court documents said.

Five former and current Bellbrook-Sugarcreek local school officials, including the current chairman of the board, have been charged in connection with the alleged misuse of public funds. Chairman of the Board David Carpenter, Board Member Virginia Slouffman, and former Board members Liz Betz and Kathy Kingston were also charged with one count each of illegal transaction of public funds and of dereliction of duty.

Betz, Carpenter, Kingston and Slouffman, all of whom were on the school board at the time, signed a letter in April / May 2019 that was part of a letter to residents of the district. Council postcards cost over $ 3,200 and were paid for with district funds. The mailing contained a board photograph titled “Continuing Excellence with Issue 4 Passing May 7,” documents said.

Council members are due to appear in court the week of Jan. 17, according to the municipal court record.

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