State ethics charges not expected to disrupt Internet negotiations in Piedmont
by Laura Gaddy
lbgaddy@annistonstar.com
Aug 22, 2013 | 4237 views |  0 comments | 84 84 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Piedmont sixth-grade teacher Magan Glover helps Michael Milton with his new laptop on the first day of school at Piedmont Middle School on Monday. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Piedmont sixth-grade teacher Magan Glover helps Michael Milton with his new laptop on the first day of school at Piedmont Middle School on Monday. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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Piedmont’s schools superintendent says state ethics charges against an employee of a company his system hired to provide Internet service to students shouldn’t disrupt talks to restore that service.

Dave Stone, 54, and his wife Deann Stone, 50, both of Wetumpka, are facing five ethics charges each, a release from the Alabama Attorney General’s office states. Prosecutors say the Stones mismanaged $49 million in federal grant money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to obtain personal gain for themselves or the company Dave Stone works for, Wetumpka-based Information Transport Solutions.

The charges appear to have no connection to ITS’ contract with Piedmont City Schools.

Piedmont paid ITS $30,000 a month to provide at-home wireless Internet service to Piedmont students last year. The board received a federal grant that matched 80 percent of the cost, and the city provided a monthly contribution of $6,250. However, the service stopped in June because the grant ended and the city’s contribution stopped. Officials are in talks to reinstate the city’s contribution and to negotiate a lower price with the ITS. Meanwhile, students returned to school this week without the service.

Piedmont schools Superintendent Matt Akin said his school system has not used any state-directed grant money from ITS and the news of the arrest has not changed the city’s and the school system’s plans with ITS.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with anything we’ve done with them,” Akin said. “It seems like an isolated incident.”

An email from ITS representatives also says the company will continue to work with Piedmont’s schools to provide the service.

Dave Stone is one of 150 people employed by ITS. Deann Stone is the former director of federal programs for the Alabama Department of Education.

The Stones turned themselves in to officials at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday, according to the release.

Dave Stone was placed on administrative leave after the arrest, according to a press release from the company.

“While we are hopeful and confident that Dave’s name will be cleared and a judgment reached that no wrongdoing was committed, ITS steadfastly renounces the behavior outlined in today’s indictment. ITS had — and has — no knowledge that one of our employees could be operating outside the state's ethics law,” ITS CEO Steve Meany said in a Wednesday release.

The Stones’ arrests followed an investigation by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange and the U.S. Department of Education.

Prosecutors presented evidence to a Montgomery County special grand jury Tuesday, and it resulted in the Stones’ indictment, the release states.

The couple is being accused of using Deann Stone’s position to generate business for ITS through the reinvestment act grant funds. The money was linked to grants for Marengo, Lowndes and Coosa county school systems, the release states.

The couple is also accused of violating state ethics law by using a state computer, labor, documents and other materials for their personal benefit through the allocation of funds. The Stones are also being accused of “soliciting or receiving” meals, transportation and lodging in Boston, Mass., to “influence official action.”

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.
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