Joe Kinnan faces 10-day suspension in probe of Manatee High ex-baseball coach

mmasferrer@bradenton.comDecember 16, 2013 

MANATEE -- School district officials are recommending that Manatee High athletic director and football coach Joe Kinnan be suspended for 10 days without pay and stripped of his responsibilities overseeing the athletic department's finances after an investigation of former baseball coach Dwayne Strong found that Kinnan "failed to maintain honesty in his professional dealings."

Superintendent Rick Mills also is recommending that Assistant Superintendent Robert Gagnon, a former Manatee High principal, be suspended for 10 days for not fully cooperating in the Strong investigation -- if the school board doesn't uphold a recommendation in the separate Rod Frazier investigation that he be fired.

The recommendations in the Strong case are included in administrative complaints released Monday morning by the school district.

Kinnan and Gagnon have the right to request hearings on the recommendations.

In a statement released by his attorney Douglas Peebles, Kinnan acknowledged that he "could have been more diligent in my oversight and follow through," regarding Strong.

"However, the allegations and findings contained within the complaint are far overreaching. I cannot abide and cannot more strongly disagree with any allegations or findings which wrongly characterize my conduct as intentional, misleading or dishonest or that may otherwise impugn my integrity."

Kinnan said he was bound by a "strict confidentiality agreement imposed on me by the school district" to not discuss details of the investigation and its findings. He did say he is working with his attorney to prepare a request for an administrative hearing to appeal Mills' recommendation.

"I look forward to the opportunity to present my response to this matter in an administrative hearing so that all false, misleading and inaccurate allegations and characterizations can be resolved and the record corrected." Kinnan said.

Peebles said Kinnan, who has a history of cancer, is currently on "indefinite medical leave" from the school district, and would not be available for additional comment until Monday evening, at the earliest.

School district investigator Troy Pumphrey began investigating Strong after he received an anonymous letter accusing Strong of using his position as baseball coach to benefit a separate business venture, 5 Tools Baseball Instruction and improper oversight of the baseball team's finances.

Among the allegations were that Strong improperly handled proceeds of fundraising events and concession sales, that he forced Manatee High baseball players to attend his camp and that he had not properly maintained his teacher certification.

While under investigation, Strong resigned from the district Oct. 31.

According to the complaint, Kinnan and Gagnon "worked in concert to improperly steer MHS funds to 5 Tools so that MHS players could access and utilize 5 Tool's facilities to the private financial benefit of Strong."

Kinnan was issued a letter of reprimand on Dec. 6 -- the same day he announced he was stepping down as athletic director but remaining as head football coach.

Gagnon has been suspended without pay since Oct. 14, after the Frazier investigation found he and other school district officials did not properly report allegations of possible child abuse committed by Frazier, a former assistant football coach and parent liaison in his dealings with Manatee High students.

Gagnon and three other officials also face criminal charges in the case for not reporting the allegations. Frazier also faces charges that he had improper contact with students and staff at Manatee High.

According to the complaints, Pumphrey found during his investigation of Strong, Kinnan and Gagnon "intentionally omitted information and/or provided false and/or misleading information regarding his knowledge and personal involvement in the financial arrangement between the MHS Baseball Boosters, MHS and 5 Tools, as well as the certification status of Strong.

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