COLUMBIA — Indicted Berkeley County schools Superintendent Rodney Thompson was released Friday on a promise to return for his next court date after a judge granted a personal recognizance bond.
Thompson’s lawyer, Joseph P. Griffith Jr., said afterward that his client waived arraignment and his release without having to post the $10,000 bond set by the judge was unopposed by the prosecutor.
“Had we had an arraignment, Dr. Thompson would have pleaded not guilty,” Griffith said. “Dr. Thompson acted in good faith and in the best interests of the Berkeley County School District at all times. I am extremely disappointed that an indictment was pursued against Dr. Thompson for this misdemeanor charge.”
Thompson’s next court appearance has not yet been set.
Thompson, 48, was indicted Wednesday by the state grand jury on a misdemeanor ethics charge involving public corruption in connection with the district’s 2012 Yes 4 Schools campaign, which resulted in voters approving $198 million in bonds to build and renovate schools.
The indictment alleges that Thompson authorized using school resources to campaign for passage of the referendum in violation of state ethics laws. If convicted, he faces up to a year in prison and a fine.
During the two-minute bond hearing in Richland County, Thompson told 5th Circuit Judge Robert Hood he understood his rights and his obligation to show up in court.
He and his attorney answered yes or no questions about the charge and the court process and declined to make any additional statements.
Communications Director Amy Kovach was indicted on an ethics charge by a Berkeley County grand jury in February 2014, and a felony forgery charge last September. She also is free on a $10,000 bond and has been on paid leave from her $79,995-a-year job since Feb. 11, 2014.
Thompson is on paid leave from his $168,714-a-year job with the Berkeley County School District. He is also an adjunct instructor at The Citadel, where he is currently teaching one class but is not scheduled in the future, according to officials there.
Thompson asked last year to be released from his contract with the district at the end of July, and is slated to be a social studies teacher starting in August. The school board plans to hear advice regarding that contract from lawyers Childs & Halligan at its April 28 meeting.