Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Not Worried on Ethics Complaint, Van Zant Says; Clay Superintendent Says He Hasn't Done 'Anything to Be Cleared From'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Not Worried on Ethics Complaint, Van Zant Says; Clay Superintendent Says He Hasn't Done 'Anything to Be Cleared From'

Article excerpt

Byline: Teresa Stepzinski

Clay County schools Superintendent Charlie Van Zant Jr. said he has no reason be concerned about an ethics complaint or any investigation by the Governor's Office or State Attorney's Office.

The county School Board voted 3-1 Wednesday, with Vice Chairwoman Lisa Graham dissenting and member Johnna McKinnon absent, to file the complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics and to request the investigation into Van Zant's co-sponsorship of a controversial American Exceptionalism conference set for Monday and Tuesday at the Thrasher-Horne Conference Center in Orange Park.

Voting to take the action against Van Zant were board Chairwoman Carol Studdard and members Janice Kerekes and Tina Bullock. Referring to Van Zant's use of district resources, Kerekes said the board has a duty to hold the superintendent accountable for district operations.

"If we suspect something is illegal or unethical, we need a higher body to look into it," Kerekes said.

Van Zant said he acted properly within his authority as superintendent and in accordance with district policy. The board's action Wednesday night "really doesn't change any of the facts," which are that he did nothing wrong, Van Zant said.

"I don't have anything to be cleared from. Nobody has brought to me a procedure, a policy or a Florida statute that we haven't followed, either as a district or me personally," said Van Zant, who personally is co-hosting the Dare to Think conference and is among its scheduled speakers.

At the heart of the issue is the use of $2,037 in school district funds, albeit temporarily, as well as the district's sales tax exemption number and its 25 percent discount to book the conference center on behalf of event organizer William Korach, who publishes The Report Card, a magazine focusing on education reform with a conservative viewpoint.

Korach, a Republican party official, subsequently reimbursed the district and changed the reservation to The Report Card. Korach has said there never was any intention for district money to be used - a point supported by the district's assistant superintendent for business affairs and its purchasing director. …

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