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Investigation uncovers Ovid-Elsie superintendent used district fuel for personal vehicles as 'past practice'

Ovid-Elsie Transportation Department gas tanks
Posted at 10:00 AM, Jun 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-11 11:54:30-04

OVID-ELSIE, Mich. — Superintendent Ryan Cunningham has been accused of inappropriately using Ovid-Elsie Area Schools fuel for his personal vehicle for several years, but he insists when he became superintendent 12 years ago, he was told he was entitled to one tank of gas and one car wash per week.

"This was a past practice going back almost 20 years, and it was something that was passed on to me, and I just continued the practice," Cunningham said. "I never felt that I was being deceitful or undermining the district or trying to be evasive in any way."

Ovid-Elsie Board of Education President Eric Jones wrote in a statement that three weeks ago, the board received a complaint, "alleging that Superintendent Dr. Ryan Cunningham has been using district fuel and placing it in his personal vehicle over the past several years."

Jones said that due to the "gravity of this allegation," the board contacted third-party Recon Management to investigate the situation.

After a series of interviews, Recon Management established that Cunningham’s use of the fuel was "a past practice" that "may implicate existing legal standards."

"Consequently, the board will take all necessary steps to comply with existing law and will follow-up with the community if there are any further developments regarding this matter," Jones wrote in his statement. "The board appreciates all feedback regarding this issue and will address any follow-up questions at the next board meeting."

Cunningham said though he hasn't seen the report himself, he thinks it will, "exonerate me 100 percent."

"And show that it wasn't malicious intent. It wasn't something I was doing to steal gas or something like that—it was just a past practice," Cunningham said.

Cunningham became superintendent in 2010. Since then, he said he has gotten, on average, about a tank of gas in one of his four personal vehicles per week.

"There's times when I'm out there, and you know an employee would say, 'Hey let me flip the pump on for you,'" Cunningham said.

The concern comes from the fact that the gas is not taxed, meaning Cunningham could owe back-taxes to the Department of Treasury. How much exactly, he said he did not want to speculate because the district has only ever tracked fuel usage of its buses and no other district vehicles.

When asked if he had ever taken more than one of his four vehicles to be filled up within one week, he said he couldn't recall.

"If I think back to most recent events, the past few months, no it didn't happen," Cunningham said.

The allegation made against Cunningham came after the district's decision to invest in a turf football field caused community protest and division.

The next board meeting is July 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the Ovid-Elsie High School / Middle School Information Center.

FOX 47 News received its own news tip about this allegation and put in a Freedom of Information Act request with the district on June 14. The request was received by the district on June 20, and they asked for an extension of 10 days.

This is a developing story and will be updated as we receive more information from the FOIA request.

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