XENIA — Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools Superintendent Dr. Doug Cozad was charged with illegal transaction of public funds and dereliction of duty in Xenia Municipal Court Thursday.
Cozad, 47, faces four counts of each regarding alleged actions during the district’s 2019 operating levy campaign. Illegal transaction of public funds is a first-degree misdemeanor while dereliction of duty is a second-degree misdemeanor according to court documents.
The charges, filed by John M. Uhl — fraud investigator for the Auditor of State’s Special Investigations Unit — allege that Cozad was responsible for the language in a newsletter sent to the district and authorized the payment of government funds for its printing an mailing in addition to authorizing the use of public funds to hire Allerton Hill Consulting to assist in “reviving and passing” another proposed operating levy which included a phone survey after the levy failed in May.
According to court documents, more than $57,000 in public funds were used.
The charges state that “in or around March-April 2019, Douglas A. Cozad, the superintendent of Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local Schools, authorized the mailing of a newsletter to the public from the school district. Public funds were used to pay for the newsletter which prominently stated (in part) ‘An investment in our schools is an investment in our community’ adjacent to an announcement that the operating levy was on the May 7, 2019 ballot.”
The state also alleges that in the same time frame, the district board of education sent a letter — signed by then-board members Elizabeth Betz, David Carpenter, Kathy Kingston, and Virginia Slouffman — as part of a mailer to local residents, and included a picture of the board with the title “Continue the Excellence with the passes of Issue 4!” The charges also indicate that the mailer included another post card regarding Issue 4 and payment was authorized by Cozad and the four board members.
Board President David Carpenter said he has “no reason to think anything of substance or substantial truth about it.” Neither Carpenter, Betz, Kingston, nor Slouffman were charged with any crime.
Xenia Law Director Donette Fisher has appointed Samuel J. Kirk, Thomas Anger, and Robert Smith from the Auditor of State’s Special Investigation Unit as special prosecutors in the case.
Cozad, who could not be reached for comment, is set to be arraigned at 10 a.m. Nov. 17, according to court records.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.