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Franklin County school board takes no action against indicted superintendent

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Franklin County Schools Superintendent Mark Kopp talks with board lawyer Robert Chenoweth, not pictured, during a board meeting on Friday, Sept. 27. (Photo by McKenna Horsley)

Editor's Note: This story was updated at 7:24 p.m. to include a statement from Franklin County Schools regarding Whitney Allison.

The Franklin County Board of Education unanimously decided Friday to take no action against the school district’s superintendent, who was indicted this week on an attempted bribery charge. 

Superintendent Mark Kopp was indicted on a charge of criminal attempt bribery of a public servant, a Class A misdemeanor, stemming from a case involving current Bondurant Middle School Principal Whitney Allison and former Bondurant teacher Todd Smith. A sheriff's deputy alleges that Kopp pressured him to make the case against Allison "go away."

“We have reviewed the police report that we have received through an open records request and the written statement from Mr. Kopp. We have discussed the matter with the board attorney,” said board Chair Natalie Lile, before she made a motion to take no action. 

The motion passed with no public discussion from board members.

The teacher was indicted on two charges of first-degree sexual abuse of minors under the age of 16, a Class D felony. Allison was indicted on a charge of failure to report child dependency, neglect or abuse, first offense, a Class B misdemeanor. The charge relates to a state law requiring school administrators to report allegations of abuse to the appropriate authorities.

The school board went immediately into closed session after convening a special meeting at 11 a.m. Friday. The board met with its lawyer, Robert Chenoweth of Lawrenceburg, Kopp and his lawyer, Tom Miller of Lexington. 

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Franklin County Schools Board Chair Natalie Lile reads a motion to say that the board will not take any action at this time against Superintendent Mark Kopp during a special board meeting on Friday, Sept. 27. (Photo by McKenna Horsley)

After the meeting, which lasted about an hour, Miller said that Allison is still an employee of the school district. 

“The superintendent will have to address her situation. I’m not going to speak for him and I’m sure he will do an appropriate investigation and analysis,” Miller said.

The school district released a statement via Facebook on Friday in regards to Allison's employment and said that the Commonwealth Attorney's Office had been conducting an investigation of Allison since March. 

"We have no information that supports the claim that Ms. Allison acted inappropriately and therefore, will not take any personnel action at this time," the district's statement said. 

Kentucky state law says that superintendents are responsible for “the hiring and dismissal” of all personnel in a district.

“What went wrong was a deputy sheriff had a misunderstanding of what occurred, he had a misunderstanding of the legal obligation of the principal involved, Ms. Allison, and he combined those misunderstandings with a ridiculous assumption as to why Mr. Kopp was talking to him," Miller said after the board’s vote. "It had nothing to do with trying to influence the investigation. It was supporting his excellent principal in her very rational and reasonable decision on how to investigate complaints.” 

Miller gave reporters a four-page typed statement, which was addressed to the board, prior to the meeting. The statement says that “the pending criminal charges against him are totally without merit, that he in all respects has acted appropriately and consistent with his legal requirements and why there is no need for the Board to take any action regarding his duties and responsibilities.” 

The statement also references an incident report filed by Franklin County Sheriff's Deputy Montey Chappell, who was previously a school resource officer and worked with the school system. Now, he’s the head of security at the Franklin County Courthouse. 

The lawyer's statement said that Allison received a report from a student who accused a teacher of inappropriately “grabbing” her bottom on one occasion in a classroom full of students on March 14. 

The statement said that Allison immediately began to investigate, had the student prepare a written statement and gathered two additional written statement from students who were reportedly witnesses. One of the witnesses had observed the reported incident but gave a version that was “somewhat different than the complainant” and the second witness said she did not see the event. At that point, Allison determined that she needed to do additional investigating before determining “if a report of sexual abuse needed to be made,” the document said. 

 

Kentucky state law says that any person who knows or has reasonable cause to believe that a child is abused shall immediately cause an oral or written report to be made to a local law enforcement agency and any supervisor who receives a report of suspected abuse from an employee shall promptly make a report to the proper authorities for investigation. Miller’s statement argues that Allison was acting within the law because of the conflicting reports from witnesses and did not have a “reasonable cause to believe.” Kopp thought that it was appropriate for Allison to do further investigation and did not know about the March 14 incident, according to the statement. 

The statement said that on March 15, Chappell called Kopp about the incident, which is what Chappell said in his original report. Kopp then contacted Holly Adkins, the school district’s human resources director, and they went to meet Allison. 

“Because Ms. Allison now had two reports of similar conduct by the same teacher, she then had reasonable cause to believe that a report should be made,” the statement said. 

A same-day meeting was held with Allison, Kopp and Chappell, the statement said. Since Chappell is a member of a local law enforcement agency, Miller argues that the requirements of the law were met. The teacher, who was not named in the statement, was suspended without pay and never returned to the classroom. 

“Deputy Chappell specifically was asked at that time if he was going to handle the reporting and he said he was,” the statement read. 

The statement then addresses the incident report filed by Chappell, which was attached to the statement. 

“In his (Chappell’s) narrative is his version of events and if true, fully exculpates Mr. Kopp,” the statement said. 

After delivering a subpoena from the grand jury, Chappell met with Kopp. During the conversation, Kopp defended Allison, the statement said. The subpoena was reported to be over documents that the Commonwealth's Attorney’s Office wanted to see because it was investigating Allison. 

In his report, Chappell alleged that Kopp made two statements that led to the charges against Kopp: 

“This is the new SRO contract and I am keeping it the same for this year.” 

“I am doing you a solid, now I need you to do me a solid.” 

“The deputy then provides a convoluted and nonsensical conclusion that because there was a statement made about an SRO contract between the board and the Sheriff’s Office that had not been changed from the previous year, there was an implication that because Mr. Kopp had already made a decision that did not affect the deputy that Mr. Kopp was trying to make ‘Ms. Allison’s situation go away,’” the statement from Kopp’s lawyer said. “In other words, presumably, the deputy construed an action previously taken by Mr. Kopp to somehow influence the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s investigation.” 

Chappell alleged that the conversation was in regards to past discussions he and Kopp had about the district's hiring Jeff Abrams, a former Frankfort police chief whom the district hired last year to be its first school safety coordinator. Abrams told The State Journal on Thursday that he was still employed with the district in that role. 

The statement from Kopp’s lawyer argues that the superintendent has not committed a criminal offense. The “SRO Contract” was not with Chappell, who is employed by FCSO, so Kopp had no influence or control over Chappell’s employment or compensation. 

“Deputy Chappell would receive no pecuniary benefit regardless of whether the SRO Contract was executed,” the statement said. “There is not even an attempt to explain what pecuniary benefit Deputy Chappell would receive from the execution of a SRO Contract that Mr. Kopp was committed to executing prior to the conversation between the two.”  

The statement continued to say that if the Commonwealth's Attorney’s Office had already presented the matter to a grand jury in regards to Allison’s actions, Kopp could not have any influence over an action by a grand jury. 

“Whether Deputy Chappell did, or did not, do ‘a solid’ (whatever that means) to Mr. Kopp would have had absolutely no influence over the ‘action’ to be taken by the grand jury,” the statement said. 

Kopp has an arraignment scheduled for Oct. 15 in Franklin County District Court. 

“On or before that date, we will move to have the charges dismissed and are highly confident that once the Franklin District Court learns the factual basis underlying the indictment, we will prevail. In no circumstance will Mr. Kopp consider a guilty plea for the very simple reason that he has committed no crime,” the statement said.  

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