The Franklin County Schools superintendent and Bondurant Middle School principal both pleaded not guilty Tuesday to misdemeanor charges related to alleged improper handling of abuse allegations against a teacher.
Superintendent Mark Kopp faces a charge of criminal attempt of bribery of a public servant and Principal Whitney Allison is charged with failure to report child dependency, neglect or abuse, first offense. Both cases are being handled in Franklin County District Court after a grand jury indicted Kopp and Allison on misdemeanors.
The charges stem from an investigation of former Bondurant Middle School teacher Todd Smith. He is charged with two counts of first-degree sexual abuse, a Class D felony. Both of the alleged victims are under age 16. Smith appeared in circuit court on Oct. 4 and entered a not guilty plea. He has a pretrial conference set for Nov. 8 at 2 p.m.
Kopp allegedly pressured a Franklin County sheriff's deputy to make the case against Allison "go away."
Both Kopp and Allison are set to have a pretrial conference on Nov. 19 at 1 p.m. On Tuesday, they appeared before District Court Judge Kathy Mangeot.
Kopp's attorney Elliot Miller, a lawyer at Miller, Griffin and Marks in Lexington, said his legal team filed a motion to dismiss Kopp’s case following his Tuesday court appearance.
“As explained below, the charge must be dismissed because an essential element of the charge of bribery is absent here: Kopp never offered complainant Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy Montey Chappell any pecuniary benefit,” the motion reads.
During Tuesday's hearing, County Attorney Rick Sparks, who is prosecuting Kopp and Allison, said that one of his concerns in the case is the charge itself: “criminal attempt of bribery of a public servant.” He said that the charge of bribery, no “attempt” preceding it, is an inchoate offense, meaning that the alleged action was taken as a step to commit the crime. A regular bribery charge, which is typically a Class C felony, would include the attempt.
“So I believe that the allegation was made though it was categorized as a misdemeanor by way of the attempt. It's a double inchoate offense and I’ve never seen this,” Sparks said in court.
Fred Peters, Allison’s Lexington-based lawyer, said he will file a motion for discovery as he has not seen the evidence that went before the grand jury. From there, other motions could be filed on her behalf.
“She was shocked that the indictment happened,” Peters said to the State Journal of his client’s reaction to her indictment.
Kopp has worked for FCS since the summer of 2017, following the retirement of Superintendent Chrissy Jones, and the Board of Education has not taken any action on his employment to this date. Allison was hired by the school system in December to lead BMS. When asked if he had taken any disciplinary action against Allison, Kopp said that he "will not discuss personnel matters with the press or anyone for that matter."
Smith only worked as a teacher in the school system last school year. He recently taught at the University of South Florida but was placed on administrative leave after the university heard about his charges.
Kopp's charge is punishable for up to 12 months in jail and up to $500 in fines. Allison's charge is punishable up to 90 days in jail and up to $250 in fines. Smith could face one to five years in prison.