MOUNT VERNON – Justin Sanford will remain the activities director at Mount Vernon City Schools following his recent OVI conviction, district superintendent Bill Seder said in a statement Monday.
Seder said the district’s position has “remained unchanged” since last fall, as Sanford has retained his employment with the district since his arrest.
“While this is a private matter that occurred outside of Mr. Sanford’s contractual time, we are incredibly disappointed with regards to this situation,” Seder stated. “We believe we have a responsibility to be positive role models in the way we conduct ourselves both inside and outside of the school setting.
“In this matter, we certainly fell short of those expectations and will take the necessary steps to reinforce appropriate expectations. Mr. Sanford will remain in his position as we have confidence that he can turn this negative situation into a more positive platform moving forward.”
Mount Vernon Board of Education President Margie Bennett told the Mount Vernon News that in situations like Sanford’s, the board typically relies on the judgement of school administrators, who work more closely with staff.
According to the Mount Vernon City School District’s online policy manual, under a subsection titled “Indictments or Convictions for Drug or Alcohol Use,” it is written that “discipline will be imposed if a School employee is indicted or convicted under any criminal drug statute for a violation occurring in the workplace or outside the workplace.”
The manner of discipline required in such cases is not specified in the manual. However, it does add that, “in addition to any disciplinary action, the Board may refer the District employee to a treatment or counseling program for illegal drug use or controlled-substance abuse.”
On Oct. 27, Sanford was pulled over at 2:04 a.m. by Mount Vernon Police Department Patrolman Justin Willis after failing to use a turn signal when going from South Mulberry Street to West Vine Street. When Willis approached Sanford after the stop, Willis noticed that the driver’s eyes were “bloodshot and watery,” according to court records.
Sanford told Willis that he had “just picked up a friend from Flappers,” according to the police report. When Willis asked Sanford if he had been drinking, Sanford said he had not. But Willis said he noticed “the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from inside the vehicle,” which is when he called for additional units to help him conduct field sobriety tests.
Willis said Sanford could not maintain balance during the sobriety tests. He was then arrested for driving while impaired and was transported to the Knox County Jail, where he refused to submit a breath or urine sample. Because of this, Sanford’s license was suspended for one year. On Feb. 15, the court allowed him to renew his license while under suspension.
Sanford pleaded not guilty to the OVI charge. On Thursday, he was sentenced to 180 days in jail, with 174 suspended on the condition he complies with probation. Of the remaining six days, he will spend three in a driver intervention program and the other three in jail, court officials said. He was given two years of probation by judge John Thatcher.