Lowndes County school official convicted of felony ethics charges as former director of federal programs for State Department of Education

Published 2:45 pm Friday, October 10, 2014

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange announced the convictions Friday of Dr. Deann K. Stone, the former director of Federal Programs for the state Department of Education, and her husband, Dave Stone, an employee of Information Transport Solutions Inc., on felony state ethics charges.
Deann K. Stone has been employed since 2011 as coordinator of special education for the Lowndes County Board of Education, according to Lowndes County School Superintendent Dr. Daniel Boyd. He said Stone has informed him of her decision to retire from the Lowndes County School System.
Stone and her husband are from Wetumpka.
Strange said his Special Prosecutions Division partnered with agents and auditors with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General in an investigation into the allocation of $49,000,000 in federal grant money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for failing Alabama schools.
He also said the Office of Inspector General’s February 2012 Audit Report found a conflict of interest and raised serious concerns about the 2010 awarding of Recovery Act School Improvement Grant funds to local education agencies.
“These defendants not only betrayed taxpayers but also the citizens and students of Alabama who were counting on scarce resources to help schools that were in dire need,” Strange said.
He reported that prosecutors presented evidence at a trial that began on Sept. 29 and lasted through Oct. 9 showing that with the help of her husband Dave, Dr. Deann Stone took actions to manipulate the grant process to ensure that school districts that have agreements with Dave Stone’s business employer received millions in federal grant money.
When contacted about the convictions, Boyd said, “I am surprised about the outcome of this trial. Deann Stone has always carried herself in a professional manner. And I am truly surprised of the verdict because she’s always been an upstanding, honest, hardworking, intelligent employee of our district.”
Strange said the jury deliberated for part of Friday morning before returning guilty verdicts for both Deann K. Stone and Dave Stone as charged in the following five counts:
“Count 1 charged Deann Stone and Dave Stone with violating the state ethics law by intentionally using Dr. Stone’s official position as director of Federal Programs to obtain personal gain for themselves or Information Transport Solutions Inc., through the allocation and funding of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Title I, Part A, 1003(g) School Improvement Grant to the Lowndes County School System;
“Count 2 charged Deann Stone and Dave Stone with violating the state ethics law by intentionally using Dr. Stone’s official position as Director of Federal Programs to obtain personal gain for themselves or Information Transport Solutions, Inc., through the allocation and funding of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Title I, Part A, 1003(g) School Improvement Grant to the Marengo County School System;
“Count 3 charged Deann Stone and Dave Stone with violating the state ethics law by intentionally using Dr. Stone’s official position as Director of Federal Programs to obtain personal gain for themselves or Information Transport Solutions, Inc., through the allocation and funding of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Title I, Part A, 1003(g) School Improvement Grant to the Coosa County School System;
“Count 4 charged Deann Stone and Dave Stone with violating the state ethics law by intentionally using a state computer, a state email account, the human labor and/or the time of Dr. Stone and another state employee, or documents and/or materials created by state employees, for their private or business benefit through the allocation and funding of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Title I, Part A, 1003(g) School Improvement Grant to the Lowndes, Marengo, and Coosa County School Systems; and
“ Count 5 charged Deann Stone and Dave Stone with violating state ethics law by intentionally soliciting or receiving meals, transportation, and hotel expenses in Boston, Massachusetts from Cambium Learning, Inc., for themselves for the purpose of influencing official action.”
According to Strange, sentencing is set for Dec. 15 when the defendants will face potential penalties of two to 20 years and fines of up to $30,000 for each of the five counts for which they were convicted.”
Strange said, “I want to thank the Office of Inspector General for performing a thorough audit of the federal stimulus money intended to help struggling Alabama schools and the Investigative Services Branch for partnering with my office to investigate this matter.”
He also said. “This kind of cooperative effort among state and federal law enforcement agencies maximizes our resources to more effectively combat crimes of public corruption.”
Kathleen S. Tighe, inspector general of the U.S. Department of Education said, “As the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of Education, ensuring that those who steal federal education funds or game the system for their own selfish purposes are stopped and held accountable for their criminal actions is a big part of our mission. That’s why I’m proud of the work of OIG and our law enforcement colleagues for holding these individuals accountable for their criminal actions.”
Strange commended Assistant Attorneys General Bill Lisenby and Pete Smyczek and special agents in his Special Prosecutions Division, as well as special agents and auditors of the United States Department of Education, Office of Inspector General.

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