Judge agrees to let former Berkeley official remain out of jail

Former Berkeley County School District Director Amy Kovach, with her attorney Andy Savage, answers a question from Judge Jeffrey Young during a court hearing Monday morning.

The former communications director for Berkeley County School District said she got bad advice from a previous lawyer that landed her in court Monday to prove she shouldn’t go to prison.

Amy Kovach, 44, blamed employment lawyer Nancy Bloodgood for suggesting that Kovach file a lawsuit against the district weeks after her Aug. 28 guilty plea to misconduct in office and using public funds to influence an election.

Kovach and her current lawyer, Andy Savage, said she has asked that the suit be dismissed with prejudice.

After a State Law Enforcement Division investigation, Kovach was indicted on five charges in connection with the 2012 Yes 4 Schools campaign, but three of those charges were dismissed in a plea deal that kept her out of prison.

Circuit Judge Jeffrey Young sentenced her to five years behind bars but suspended the term to two years of probation and a $25,000 fine. On Monday, Young said her apology was enough to convince him to close the contempt charge without sending Kovach to prison.

In November, Kovach was ordered to return to court to prove that she should not be held in contempt because the lawsuit and because of a Sept. 8 sworn affidavit that contradicted her confession.

Kovach said Monday she was guilty of the charges, which included using district time and resources to promote its $198 million building campaign.

Under oath, Kovach read a statement in court that said she has been working with new lawyers Savage and Don McCune “to better understand the actions taken by my civil lawyer Nancy Bloodgood on my behalf, to better understand the error that she made in filing the suit without having done the proper due diligence and without the advantage of having the transcript of the Aug. 28 hearing.”

Savage said Kovach filed the suit “based on erroneous legal representation” and that Bloodgood was “without a clear understanding of what the attorney general had alleged” before filing the suit on Kovach’s behalf.

Bloodgood, who was not in court Monday, did not respond to a phone message or email seeking comment.

After her guilty plea, Kovach in October hired Bloodgood and filed a civil suit against the district and several individuals claiming that the district failed to protect her. The two parted ways about a month later.

Two of the individuals named in the suit were Daniel Island lawyer Josh Whitley, who originally brought concerns about the referendum to the state Attorney General’s Office in January 2013, and his mother, Karen Whitley, a school district employee.

They have filed a motion for sanctions against Bloodgood for filing a frivolous lawsuit. That hearing is scheduled for Feb. 19.