Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Documents accuse former superintendent of possible embezzlement in Michigan

Benton Harbor Area Schools and former superintendent Dr. Leonard Seawood mutually cut ties in October but new documents obtained by our reporting partners at the Herald Palladium say Seawood was part of a criminal investigation of possible embezzlement.

The eight page partial document says Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic requested a probe in regards to Seawood cashing out 90 more days of vacation than he was entitled to, questionable credit card charges and issues with payroll.

However, Seawood's attorney says these are false accusations which her client spoke to investigators about.

"We were extremely disappointed to see the Michigan State Police released a partial report," Sarah Howard, Attorney for Dr. Leonard Seawood said. "We do not think there were any grounds under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to release it, nor do we think it's very fair."

Howard is far from the only one. Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sepic, declined an interview regarding a pending investigation but shared a similar sentiment.

"I am disappointed in the Michigan State Police FOIA Unit for releasing a partial report on a pending investigation. In my opinion, they are not required to do so for a pending criminal investigation," Sepic said in a statement.

Dr. Seawood's Attorney says her client has been more than willing to help with the investigation too but his statements were not taken into account.

"I learned the school district did not forward any of the responses we made," Howard said. "Significant, extensive responses we made to the school district and Michigan State Police. I think the school district is pursuing their own agenda to have that released as a partial police report is completely inappropriate and unfair to Dr. Seawood. To claim this was some how an attempt to do something nefarious is simply ridiculous in our opinion. To submit that to the Michigan State Police without submitting any of our position or the extensive information we provided is irresponsible. We've waited for Michigan State Police to get Dr. Seawood's side of the story and that hasn't happened yet since we contacted them in August. We considered this extremely problematic. I have asked for but have not been given a copy of the partial report that was released to the media so I don't even know exactly what was in there."

The report also has details on the resignation agreement. Our reporting partners at the Herald Palladium say Dr. Seawood will receive $80,000 by Jan. 15 and his health insurance will remain active through April 30, 2016.

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