YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – An Austintown Township trustee was indicted on Thursday by a Mahoning County grand jury on three counts of sexual battery.
Steve Kent, also a former Poland Township police school resource officer, also faces one count of tampering with evidence. He started working as a school resource officer in 2013.
In June 2020, someone made a complaint against Kent, which is when the investigation started.
According to the indictment, the alleged victim was a student.
“We got one complaint and within 24 hours he was no longer working here. He was on unpaid leave and he was not in the school,” said Poland Township Trustee Eric Ungaro.
Students were already off-campus for summer break when the complaint was filed.
“That complaint got directly turned over to BCI,” Ungaro said.
Kent is accused of engaging in sexual conduct on April 29 or 30, 2021; May 20, 2021; and May 31 or June 1, 2021, while he was a person of authority employed by a school that the victim in the case attended.
The tampering with evidence charge accuses Kent of altering, hiding or destroying documents on June 6, 2021, while knowing that an official investigation took place.
Kent was fired in March by Poland Township trustees for “immoral conduct and malfeasance,” after he was placed on unpaid administrative leave from the department in June 2021.
“It just took that long for the investigation to take place. Once we got the investigation results, we were able union-wise and legally to terminate him officially,” Ungaro said.
Craig Hockenberry took over as superintendent of Poland Local Schools in August, two months after the complaint was made.
“Unfortunately, situations like this, it’s not new to public schools,” Hockenberry said. “I was concerned about the safety of the kids. So one of the first things we talked about is what measures can we put in place.”
He says now there are multiple school resource officers on campus.
“They check each other. They’re there together working with our staff,” Hockenberry said.
We’re told the district also has multiple trainings every year to help faculty and staff identify signs of inappropriate relationships.
We also reached out to all three of Austintown’s trustees, including Kent, but did not get a response from him. The other trustees declined an official statement but said they trust the judicial system.