BELLBROOK, Ohio (WDTN) – The Superintendent of Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools has taken a plea deal after he was accused of improperly using public funds during the district’s 2019 operating levy campaign.
Public funds were used to print and mail a newsletter sent to the district, documents claim. When the original levy failed in May, documents claim Cozad then authorized the use of public funds to hire Allerton Hill Consulting to assist in “reviving and passing” another proposed operating levy.
Cozad was facing four charges each of illegal transaction of public funds and dereliction of duty for the district’s 2019 operating levy campaign. The State of Ohio recommended that Cozad plead guilty to one count of illegal transaction of public funds and three counts of dereliction of duty. In return, the state would drop the remaining charges, according to the pretrial report filed by Samuel Kirk, a special prosecutor from the state auditor’s office.
Cozad’s legal team then filed two motions to have the charges dismissed entirely, saying the criminal statutes are unconstitutionally vague and violate Cozad’s right to Due Process.
On Sept. 30, Cozad accepted an Alford Plea agreement, where he accepted a single count of Dereliction of Duty and all the other charges were dismissed. He released the following statement.
District families –
As you may know, I have been dealing with a situation in the courts surrounding the May 2019 school levy. I wanted to inform you that this morning I accepted an Alford Plea to one count of complicity of Dereliction of Duty, a second-degree Misdemeanor, with all other counts being dismissed. This plea allows me to maintain my innocence and, at the same time, put this situation behind me in order to move forward both personally and professionally. Even though I never personally profited from this, I will need to pay restitution for a portion of the postcard mailing pertaining to the May 2019 school levy of about $5,800 to the district. In my heart of hearts, I know I acted in good faith and in the best interest of the district in this still unclear area of the law, but the emotional, mental, and financial risks of going to a jury trial and putting my future in the hands of others is too great. During my entire career and throughout this whole ordeal, I have never compromised my integrity. I have given my blood, sweat, and tears in serving this district and community at the highest ethical and professional level and will continue to do so in the future. A sincere thank you to all of those who have supported me and my family throughout this very difficult situation.
Douglas Cozad, Ph.D., Superintendent”
At this time, it is unknown how the school plans to move forward. Four of the board members released the following statement.
“The Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Board of Education has learned, along with all of you, that Superintendent Cozad has entered into an Alford Plea agreement with the Auditor of State. We thank Dr. Doug Cozad for his professionalism during this difficult time. We know it has been a strain on all parties involved.
“The Board of Education has not yet decided what, if any, actions are required of it at this time. However, the board is seeking further information and guidance on this matter.”Board members Audra Dorn, Heidi Anderson, Mike Kinsey and Kevin Price.
Board President David Carpenter and three of the board members at the time, Virginia Slouffman, Elizabeth Betz and Kathy Kingston, have also been charged with one count each of illegal transaction of public funds and dereliction of duty, according to our partners.
All members involved entered a plea of not-guilty in November of 2021.