JEWELL - The Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission is charging former Jewell School District superintendent John Seeley and his wife, Jewell School employee Laura Seeley, with misconduct.
The nature of the charges "remains confidential until the final outcome of the case," said Melody Hanson, executive assistant for the commission, the state body responsible for licensing Oregon teachers and school administrators and for taking disciplinary action when educators commit crimes or violate competency and ethics standards.
The case "has to work through its process at this point," she said Wednesday.
The 17-member commission voted May 16 to charge both educators with misconduct, she said, which could result in disciplinary measures ranging from public reprimands to license suspension or revocation. Each will now be given an opportunity for a public hearing.
Questions about the Seeleys' conduct arose in fall 2006, when the two were put on paid leave pending the results of an unrelated case. Temporary administrators became concerned about finances in Jewell, where generous local timber revenues allow the single K-12 school to spend two or three times as much per student as most Oregon districts do.
Over five years, John Seeley had racked up $360,771 in personal expense reimbursements. While some were backed up with itemized vouchers, many reimbursement requests were instead submitted with credit card statements, often for items charged to his personal Continental Airlines credit card. It was unclear whether any resulting frequent flier miles were used for district business, because of a lack of documentation.
Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis announced in May he would not pursue a case following a state Department of Justice financial investigation of Seeley. Although his use of school funds "can only be described as lavish, extreme and chaotic," Marquis said, evidence did not prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the superintendent took money for his own benefit or without the school board's permission.
However, even without an indictment, Marquis said, the school district could seek recourse through other avenues, such as a civil suit.
Now, with the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission involved, it's unclear how big an impact the outcome might have.
John Seeley eventually resigned his top post but remains a Jewell employee, although his position does not require a license. He also is now on probation in a deal Marquis described as "a guilty finding held in abeyance."
Seeley's wife, a past kindergarten teacher, also remains a Jewell employee, but she's on paid administrative leave while working as a speech language therapist for a different school.
If the Seeleys don't request hearings within 21 days of their official notice of misconduct charges, a default order will be adopted imposing disciplinary action, said Hanson, of the TSPC. If they choose to contest the charges, an administrative law judge will hear their side in the Office of Administrative Hearings. The judge could recommend sanctions or dismiss the cases. Then, the standards and ethics group would either accept that ruling, amend it or reject it, Hanson said.