Four Manatee County school administrators charged with felonies in Frazier probe

Herald staff writersAugust 15, 2013 

Superintendent Rick Mills speaks Friday morning about the Rod Frazier investigation and the criminal charges filed against four school district administrators. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

GJEFFERIES@BRADENTON.COM

MANATEE -- Four administrators with the Manatee County School District have been charged with felony counts of not reporting child abuse in the Rod Frazier case, according to the State Attorney's Office.

Frazier, a former assistant football coach and parent liaison at Manatee High School, last month was charged with seven misdemeanor counts of battery and three counts of school interference linked to alleged wrongdoing with students and staff and keeping students out of class.

Frazier has denied the charges.

The four administrators facing felony charges of failure to report child abuse include:

• Robert Gagnon, who served as interim superintendent;

• Debra Horne, a former investigator; and

• Greg Faller and Matt Kane, former assistant principals at Manatee High School.

Gagnon, former assistant superintendent and principal of Manatee High School when Frazier worked there, was charged with one felony count of failure to report child abuse, one misdemeanor count of failure to report child abuse and one misdemeanor count of giving false information to law enforcement.

Horne, the district's former investigator and now an assistant principal at Prine Elementary, is charged with one felony county of failure to report child abuse. Horne transferred to Prine Elementary in February just as Bradenton police were beginning to investigate the allegations.

Faller and Kane face identical charges: one felony county of failure to report child abuse. They are now assigned as administrators at other high schools.

Faller and Kane were suspended with pay Thursday following an internal district investigation led by Troy Pumphrey, the new investigator in the Office of Professional Standards.

At a news conference Friday morning, Superintendent Rick Mills commented on the charges being filed against the district administrators.

"Any charges involving an employee of the school district is a cause for great concern," Mills said. "When the charges include failure to report suspected abuse or giving false information to law enforcement, they are especially troubling and go to the primary responsibility of this school district -- ensuring the safety and security of students and employees."

Mills said the district's internal investigation of the Frazier matter would continue, and that the four officials charged would remain suspended with pay.

Mills said the district has higher standards than required by criminal laws, and that the outcome of the district's investigation does not depend on the outcome of the criminal matter.

Horne's attorney, Peter Lombardo, told the Bradenton Herald Thursday he is disappointed charges were filed against his client.

"She followed all school board policies and received legal advice," Lombardo said. "We will vigorously defend Debra."

Lombardo said Horne had no reason to believe a child was a victim of abuse.

"She did not suspect a child was a victim, and Rod Frazier never got charged with child or sexual abuse," Lombardo said.

Lombardo said Horne will have a court date in about four weeks, and she will enter a plea of not guilty.

Calls to Horne were not returned.

Charges against Frazier date to 2006 and include inappropriate relationships with students, calling female students out of class and into his office as a parent liaison for reasons unrelated to school, and inappropriately touching four female students and three female staff members.

Allegations include slapping girls and a colleague on their bottoms and running his foot up another staff member's leg.

All the victims told police Frazier's behavior made them feel uncomfortable, according to investigative reports.

The statue for reporting child abuse changed in October 2012 in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State, Assistant State Attorney Dawn Buff said.

"So any allegations for things that were known from before October 2012 are misdemeanors and any after October 2012 are felonies," Buff said.

Buff said no charges are pending against anyone else related to the case.

Warrants have been issued for Gagnon, Horne, Faller and Kane. They will have to turn themselves in at the Manatee County jail. They will be able to post bond immediately after being booked.

If convicted, they could face sentences ranging from probation to a maximum five years in prison.

Previously, the school district had suspended all four officials, as well as school district attorney Scott Martin, as it conducted its own investigation into the Frazier matter. No charges were filed Thursday against Martin, who remains on paid leave.

Faller, Kane, Horne and Gagnon also remain suspended with pay from the school district.

Kane and Faller both declined comment Thursday before hanging up.

Kane's attorney, Brett Mcintosh, said he is withholding comment until he has an opportunity to review the police report.

"I don't believe that Mr. Kane has broken any laws," McIntosh said. "Maybe in the future we can discuss it further."

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