Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Editorials

December 6, 2013

Appalling crime

Ex-superintendent admits to stealing $193,149 from district

ASHLAND — While William G. Rye was superintendent of the small Dayton Independent School District in Campbell County across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, the district was having such severe financial problems that athletic teams were barred from traveling long distances to “away” games. At the same time, travel expenses for other school activities from band competitions to academic meets were brought to a  halt to the detriment of Dayton students.

Those hard times in an impoverished district make Rye’s plea of guilty to embezzling more than $193,000 from the district over a period of eight years that much more appalling. While teachers and students were going without, the man in charge of the day-to-day operation of the school district was lining his pockets with money stolen from the taxpayers.

Investigators for state Auditor Adam Edelen documented problems in a review of the Dayton Independent School District this year. Edelen then turned the findings over to the FBI for investigation.

However, it was Rye’s successor, Jay Brewer, who became superintendent in July 2012, who first noticed the missing funds and notified Edelen’s office of his concerns. At the time, Brewer called the allegations he was making against Rye “terrible.”

How terrible? Well, in his guilty plea Monday, Rye admitted he embezzled a whopping $193,149.22 from the school district between 2004 and 2012. This is in a small school district Rye said lacked the funds to provide basic school services.

In a statement Monday, Edelen said the findings were “stomach-churning” because Rye “literally drained the bank account” of a school district so poor that 90 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches. The elected state auditor said the case “sparked a level of emotion in me that I try to contain as a public leader.”

Rye will be sentenced April 22 in U.S. District Court in Covington. He could be sentenced to up to 10 years, and Edelen thinks he deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. “There must be consequences for stealing from kids, especially vulnerable kids,” the auditor said.

William G. Rye betrayed the trust placed in him by the Dayton Independent Board of Education and by the taxpayers of the school district. While children and teachers in the district were going without, Rye was lining his pockets. That’s shameful and unforgivable. William Rye merits no sympathy.

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