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Jones resigns board position with pretrial diversion

No criminal charges for Northwestern school board member

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Jones

JONES

An embattled Northwestern School Board member will resign his position as part of a deal that will have him avoiding criminal charges.

Last week, a pretrial diversion agreement was brokered in the criminal case against Northwestern School Board member Steven Jones, who was accused of attempting to defraud the school corporation he represented.

The agreement, between Jones and the Howard County Prosecutor’s Office, involved the dismissal of the more severe of two charges Jones faced, while the lower charge will be dismissed so long as he avoids further criminal charges for a year. As part of the agreement, Jones agreed to give up the school board position he held since 2013.

In February, Jones was arrested after an Indiana State Police investigation resulted in him being charged with a delivery of a false sales document, a level 6 felony, and possession of a fraudulent sales document, a class A misdemeanor. The charges related to allegations that Jones falsely submitted receipts to Northwestern School Corporation for financial reimbursement for work done on a school bus his wife operated as part of the school’s bus route. But investigators found that work never was done.

According to court documents, prosecutors agreed to dismiss the felony-level charge Jones faced. The misdemeanor charge was then subject to the pretrial diversion agreement.

Under the agreement, prosecutors agreed to withhold the misdemeanor charge so long as Jones avoided incurring any further criminal charges for a period of one year. Additionally, Jones agreed to give up his position as a school board member beginning on May 4. He also agreed to not seek election or re-election on the board during the term of the agreement.

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Jones also waived any compensation he would have received as a school board member for 2020, while also agreeing to “refrain from making disparaging comments, including but not limited to posting information on social media, about Northwestern School Corporation officers and trustees.”

Meanwhile a civil legal battle between Jones and the school corporation remained to be resolved. That suit, filed last year by Jones and his wife, Kristy, related to their work as contracted bus drivers for NSC.

That suit arose after NSC and the couple reached an impasse in negotiating new contracts for the bus routes. The school eventually determined the pair’s routes could be cut to create a cost savings for NSC. Jones was the highest-paid contracted bus route operating within the system, being paid $87,135 during the 2018-2019 school year.

That year the average contracted bus driver pay was $67,402. The school projected that by divvying up the contested bus routes among other drivers, an annualized savings of about $100,000 could be created and then disbursed as raises to NSC educators.

But, in the suit Jones and his wife claimed they attempted to submit a lower bid to the school after a higher initial bid was turned down. Then, they claimed they went on to purchase new buses in anticipation of the lower bid being accepted. In March, Jones and his wife moved to dismiss their own case, which was granted by the court. However, the school is attempting to contest the dismissal in order to avoid allowing Jones to refile the suit later. A hearing on the NSC’s motion to set aside dismissal is set for July.

NSC did not return a request for comment, and neither did Jones’ attorney.