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Bellbrook Sugarcreek School Board Members Found Guilty in Case Involving Improper Use of Public Funds to Support Levy Campaign
For Immediate Release
Columbus – One current and one former member of the Bellbrook Sugarcreek Local School District Board of Education have been found guilty on misdemeanor counts for their involvement in the use of public funds for a postcard mailing in support of a levy, in violation of state law.
School Board President David Carpenter and former member Virginia Slouffman were each found guilty of one count of dereliction of duty, following a one-day bench trial in Xenia Municipal Court.
Visiting Judge David Landefeld acquitted both on a separate misdemeanor count of using public monies to benefit a political action committee, noting that he did not believe they acted “knowingly.” The Court did find that they acted recklessly.
The Auditor of State’s Special Investigations Unit received a complaint, initially submitted to the Greene County Sheriff’s Office by a resident, alleging that Bellbrook Sugarcreek Superintendent Douglas Cozad had OK’d the use of District funds to advocate for a tax levy.
SIU investigated and recommended charges against the Superintendent and several current and former members of the Board of Education. The Xenia Law Director appointed SIU attorneys to prosecute the case, and Judge Ladefeld was later appointed to hear the case.
Cozad, Carpenter, Slouffman, and former school board member Elizabeth Betz were charged in the case in November 2021 in Xenia Municipal Court.
dereliction of duty. Cozad was ordered to pay restitution of $5,804 to the district, and Betz was ordered to pay restitution of $1,304. Both also were fined $100 and ordered to pay court costs.
Carpenter and Slouffman declined to plea, and their case went to trial before Judge Landefeld on Thursday. As part of their sentence, they were ordered to make restitution of $502 each, about one-quarter of the total cost of a postcard that was paid for by the Board of Education around late April or early May of 2019 in support of a tax levy.
Since 2019, the Special Investigations Unit has assisted in 97 convictions resulting in more than $4.9 million in restitution (see?Map of SIU Convictions?since January 2019). The team receives hundreds of tips of suspected fraud annually. Tips can be submitted anonymously online or via SIU’s fraud hotline at 866-FRAUD-OH (866-372-8364).
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio is responsible for auditing more than 6,000 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Keith Faber, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies, and promotes transparency in government.
Contact: Marc Kovac