State attorney to join investigation of Manatee High coach

ejohnson@bradenton.comFebruary 9, 2013 

— More agencies are becoming involved after allegations surfaced Thursday that Manatee High assistant football coach and parent liaison, Rod Frazier, acted inappropriately with a former student.

Starting Monday the State Attorney’s Crime Against Children (division) is going to begin working with us to investigate and look at it, to see if he needs to be prosecuted," said Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski.

Radzilowski called State Attorney Ed Brodsky Friday to request the joint investigation.

“I briefed him on the situation and suggested he partner with us,” Radzilowski said. “He readily agreed.”

Detectives began looking at the misconduct case Thursday afternoon after going to the school district to obtain related documents, including a letter from the alleged victim describing certain incidents.

Radzilowski said interviews have been conducted, but would not confirm who had been questioned.

Radzilowski expects the investigation to continue for several weeks.

“It all depends on how detailed the assistant state attorney wants to get into it and to determine if a crime was committed or not,” Radizlowski said.

The school district is doing a separate investigation into the allegations.I nterim Superintendent David Gayler placed a Manatee High School assistant football coach on an indefinite paid administrative leave effective Friday, according to the Manatee County School District.

Frazier was previously placed on a one-day administrative leave Nov. 15 in the case.

Law enforcement agencies were shocked when they learned only Thursday about the allegations.

"I'm befuddled," Radzilowski told the Bradenton Herald. "If it turns out to be criminal and they (the school district) did not notify us, I will not be a happy camper."

Manatee High School is in Bradenton's jurisdiction, and two school resources officers are based on campus. But the agency was never informed by the district that Frazier was under scrutiny.

Radzilowski sent a detective to the district Thursday afternoon to retrieve information related to the case, including a letter penned by the alleged victim describing certain incidents.

"We're not saying it's criminal; We're not saying it's not," Radzilowski said Friday. "We will hopefully get the student and her parents in for an interview. We're just going to do our job -- gather information and give it to the State Attorney's Office."

Gayler and school board Chair Karen Carpenter were informed Friday of a request for an emergency school board meeting on the matter. School spokesman Mike Barber said no such meeting has been planned.

The district later released the following statement from Carpenter:

"The School Board of Manatee County is cooperating fully with an investigation of employee Rod Frazier by the Bradenton Police Department. Any and all information collected regarding this case is in the possession of law enforcement and we will await their conclusions. Mr. Frazier is placed on administrative leave as of (Friday) and will remain on leave until such time as law enforcement advises.

"This School Board takes very seriously the safety and security of students. Upon receipt of all of the facts of this case, we will consider the appropriate action to take. We encourage our community to reserve judgment until all of the facts are known and the investigation is complete."

With the exception of references to Frazier's paid administrative leave, his personnel file contains nothing regarding the investigation.

According to the district's Policy and Procedure Manual's section on child abuse, if an employee finds "reasonable cause" in a complaint, they should call the Florida Child Abuse Registry. If not, the employee should advise the reporting party and provide contact information to the hotline.

The Department of Child and Family Services did not return calls Friday to confirm whether or not a complaint was received.

"If the suspect abuser is a district employee, the supervisor of the reporter will notify his/her director who will notify the Office of Professional Standards," the policy states.

The Office of Professional Standards has been investigating Frazier since at least November when he was first placed on paid administrative leave. According to the district's policy, "if at any time during an investigation there are allegations of criminal misconduct, the appropriate law enforcement agency will be notified."

Florida statute requires all "legally sufficient" complaints to be filed with the Department of Education within 30 days of the complaint coming "to the attention of the school district."

A Department of Education representative told the Herald on Friday that it has no record of an investigation regarding Frazier.

Edwin Mulock, Frazier's attorney, has said the allegations of inappropriate contact with a student are rooted in "rumors and innuendos and emails and text messages and Facebook."

Mulock said Debbie Horne, then-professional standards specialist for the school district, told Frazier in December that allegations of inappropriate contact were unfounded.

"To my knowledge there was never any allegation of unlawful touching" until recently, Mulock said.

Mulock said Frazier has a passion for helping children with their problems and is trusted by his students.

"It's a risk a teacher takes every day when they try to involve themselves with students to help them out," he said.

Mulock said some of that mentoring may have been done via text messages because most students use their cell phones regularly.

"From what I can tell, he has done nothing inappropriate whatsoever," Mulock said of Frazier.

Phone calls to Assistant Superintendent Scott Martin, Manatee High Principal Don Sauer, now-assistant elementary school principal Debbie Horne, school board Attorney John Bowen and Manatee High Athletic Director and head football coach Joe Kinnan were not returned Friday.

Elizabeth Johnson, Herald crime reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. Follow her on Twitter @EJohnsonBHcrime.

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