Kovach ordered back to court for possible contempt charge

Amy Kovach and her husband, Chris Kovach, leave the Berkeley County Courthouse after her guilty plea on Aug. 28. Kovach has been ordered to return to court Jan. 4 to face possibly contempt charges. Brenda Rindge/Staff

Berkeley County School District’s former communications director has been ordered back to court on Jan. 4 to show why she shouldn’t be held in contempt for contradicting her courtroom confession to using district money to promote a building referendum.

During a guilty plea in August, Amy Kovach, 44, admitted to advocating for the district’s 2012 Yes 4 Schools campaign while working on the clock as a district employee — a violation of state ethics laws. But in a lawsuit she filed last month, Kovach laid blame for the violation on the school district.

What’s more, the state attorney general’s office says a sworn affidavit Kovach filed Sept. 8 — 11 days after pleading guilty — contradicts her confession and raises questions about whether Kovach violated her probation.

Kovach, 44, pleaded guilty Aug. 28 to one count of misconduct in office and one count of using public funds to influence an election.

After a State Law Enforcement Division investigation, she initially was indicted on five charges in connection with the $198 million building 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 he suspended the term to two years of probation and a $25,000 fine.

On Oct. 15, she sued the school district and others claiming the district failed to protect her as an employee.

A Nov. 13 petition filed by the attorney general’s office states that Kovach said under oath in an affidavit accompanying the suit “that she acted in good faith and under the school board’s direction in everything she did.” But at the Aug. 28 plea, she admitted to knowingly spending school funds on campaign materials and using “fictitious documents.”

The petition also says Kovach admitted in court to using public funds to pay for a campaign video, but contradicted that in the affidavit.

Kovach also alleged in the affidavit that Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office retaliated against her with “bogus” charges because she asked to disqualify Wilson from the case, and that the “Attorney General’s prosecution was clearly politically motivated.”

Kovach pleaded guilty to bring closure to the case, according to her affidavit.

“The publicity from all of this has caused severe distress and damage to my family,” she stated. According to the suit, she has been treated for depression, anxiety, insomnia and stress-induced gastrointestinal issues.

“Withstanding a trial ... was simply not mentally or emotionally feasible for my family or me,” she said. “This ordeal has caused undue stress and strain on my 21-year marriage, on the lives of our children, and on my physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.”

Additionally, according to the petition, while on probation and after she was fired by the district, Kovach attempted to delete 29 district Facebook pages, including the district’s main page.

On Wednesday, the attorney general’s office declined to comment.

Assistant Deputy Attorney General Creighton Waters had previously sounded a warning bell about Kovach’s statements in an Oct. 29 letter to Judge Young. Waters wrote that Kovach “spent a large portion of her complaint falsely accusing SLED and the Attorney General’s office of manufacturing evidence or making false statements during the plea about matters to which she repeatedly admitted guilt under oath before this Court.”

Kovach did not return a call for comment Friday. Lawyer Jerry Theos, who represented her in the charges, did not respond to an email.

Nancy Bloodgood, the employment lawyer who filed the suit against the district on Kovach’s behalf, said Tuesday she no longer represents Kovach and she has filed a motion to dismiss the case against the district, Berkeley County Republican Party, former party Chairmen Joshua Whitley and Terry Hardesty, former school board member Scott Marino, who is Whitley’s brother-in-law; and school district Associate Superintendent Karen Whitley, who is Whitley’s mother.

Whitley and his mother filed a response to the suit Nov. 3. They were the only defendants to respond. Whitley’s attorney, Jeffrey Breit, said this week, “We cannot comment substantively until our motions to dismiss and for sanctions have been resolved.”

Howell Morrison, who represents Karen Whitley, said, “The only comment I can make while this remains in process is this: Karen Whitley has always regarded this case as frivolous and looks forward to its dismissal by Amy Kovach’s attorney.”

Former school district Superintendent Rodney Thompson was indicted in April by a state grand jury on an ethics charge. That case is pending.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 843-937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter. Reporter Warren Wise contributed to this story.

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