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From bank to jail to classroom

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Bill Covington plead guilty to bank fraud in 2007, served sentence, and now will teach special education

By Jonna Spelbring Priester

General Manager

Students, faculty and families at Eminence Independent Schools will welcome an old, familiar face to the hallways this year.

Bill Covington, the disgraced former president of Farmer’s Deposit Bank in Eminence, has been hired as a special education teacher at Eminence Middle School.

In hiring Covington, EIS effectively offered him a second chance in life. In 2007, Covington plead guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of bank fraud. He was sentenced in 2008 to three years in prison and ordered to repay $13.4 million he was accused of defrauding from Farmers Deposit Bank. In addition to incarceration and restitution, Covington was sentenced to five years supervised release.

The charges stemmed from a United States Securities and Exchange Commission investigation in 2005 that found that Covington “concealed substantial loan losses” at the bank through various means. According to a press release from the SEC in 2005, the concealment caused Farmers to report false financial information to its parent company, Premier Financial, who in turn filed reports with the SEC containing false and misleading information.

Though a federal felony, the bank fraud conviction does not prevent Covington from teaching in Kentucky.

According to Lisa Gross, with the Kentucky Department of Education’s legal department, KRS 160.380 forbids the hiring of violent offenders or individuals convicted of felony sex crimes. As such, she said, bank fraud does not fall under those guidelines.

While he awaited the outcome of his case, Covington worked as a special education teacher in Frankfort until his incarceration in 2008. Eminence High and Middle School Principal Steve Frommeyer said he served with distinction in Frankfort.

“His references said he was the best ... special education teacher on staff that they had, and just did a tremendous job for them,” Frommeyer said, adding that Covington also served as a department chair in Frankfort.

Frommeyer also said Covington was cleared by the Education and Professional Standards Board in Frankfort to teach.

“We’re just tickled to death to get a teacher of Bill’s caliber this late in the summer,” he added. “The opening didn’t occur until late, and right now, special education teachers are really hard to find that are certified.”

In additional to being “highly qualified,” Frommeyer said Covington is well known in the community and the hire “is just a natural fit for us.”

Frommeyer said he’s not concerned that Covington’s employment will bring any negative attention to the district, saying he was well supported within the school. “If there’s any discussion that goes on outside of the school building, I don’t know,” he said. “But you know, we don’t pay much attention to it. Our job is to teach kids and meet our mission. That’s what we do.

“We do the best we can, and the other stuff, there’s not much we can do about that anyway. At the end of the day ... when Bill proves out to be a highly successful teacher, and we continue to be a highly successful school, then everything will prove out.”

Covington was among several candidates considered for the position, but Frommeyer declined to comment on whether or not there was discussion about his felony conviction, saying to do so would be illegal and unethical.

“We simply talked about hiring the best teacher, as we do in all our sessions,” he said.

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