Berkeley’s Kovach faces more charges

Kovach

Three more charges were added Wednesday to the two already faced by Berkeley schools’ communications chief for trying to influence the outcome of an election.

Amy Kovach, 44, was indicted Tuesday by a Berkeley County grand jury on charges of perjury, misconduct in office and a second forgery charge in connection with $198 million building campaign referendum in 2012 called Yes 4 Schools, according to court documents.

Kovach “continuously used public resources and time to influence the outcome of a bond referendum ... and covered up her actions with dishonesty,” according to the indictments.

Kovach altered a price estimate from a video company to comply with the district’s procurement code, according to the indictments.

Forgery is a felony charge that carries a penalty of five years in jail and/or a fine. Perjury, a misdemeanor, is punishable by six months in prison or a fine of $100 or more, and misconduct in office carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.

School board Chairman Jim Hayes said he had not seen the indictments and could not comment.

“The allegations in these new indictments are completely unfounded and untrue, and are a response to our motion to disqualify the Attorney General’s Office from this case due to ethical violations and violations of Mrs. Kovach’s constitutional rights,” said Kovach’s lawyer, Jerry Theos.

In January, Theos filed a motion to remove Attorney General Alan Wilson from the case, saying he acted unprofessionally.

“(T)he Attorney General is intent on convicting Mrs. Kovach at any cost,” the motion says.

Kovach did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

She was first indicted on Feb. 11, 2014, on an ethics violation, a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and one year in prison. A felony forgery charge was added on Sept. 9.

She has been on leave from her $79,995-a-year job with the district since Feb. 11, 2014. According to her Facebook page, she started working as a certified yoga instructor in April.

Superintendent Rodney Thompson and Deputy Superintendent Archie Franchini are also part of the State Law Enforcement Division investigation into alleged ethics violations and other possible misconduct during the election more than two years ago.

Thompson, 48, was indicted April 14 by the state grand jury on a misdemeanor ethics charge involving public corruption. He has been on leave from his $168,714-a-year job since then. In November, he asked to be released from his contract as of July 31. The board voted earlier this month to give Thompson a satisfactory evaluation and nearly $17,000 annuity.

Franchini has not been charged.

Kovach was hired by the district in July 2011 after three years as director of marketing communications at MeadWestvaco. That year, she received Trident United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council Behind the Scenes Hero Award and was chairwoman of the Education Foundation. She is married, the mother of three.

Voters approved the issuing of bonds to build five new schools by nearly a 2-to-1 ratio in the 2012 referendum. The measure added $60 to the tax bill on a $150,000 house for three years beginning in 2013, doubles that amount from 2016 until 2023, then goes back to $60 for three more years.

In January 2013, Daniel Island lawyer Josh Whitley and others asked for an investigation after obtaining emails and other information that they said showed the trio illegally used district resources during working hours to campaign for passage of the bond issue.

The school board has maintained that the employees were acting in good faith, and in February 2014 voted unanimously to foot the bill for their defense lawyers. So far, the district has spent more than $650,000 of taxpayers’ money for lawyers in connection with the issue, according to board member Mac McQuillin.

“That number is going up,” he said. “We recently received a request from Rodney Thompson to pay $127,300 (in lawyer’s fees for attorney Joe Griffiths).”

The investigation also spawned a second lawsuit. After former board member Terry Hardesty was prevented from talking about the investigation during public comments at a board meeting in June, he filed a lawsuit claiming his First and 14th Amendment rights were violated. Whitley represented him in that suit, which was settled for an undisclosed amount that sources with knowledge of the settlement said was $65,000.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.