An Austintown trustee is facing felony sexual battery charges related to his time as a Poland school resource officer.

Steve Kent was indicted by a Grand Jury Thursday on 3 counts of sexual battery and 1 count of tampering with evidence.

Counts One, Two, and Three on the felony Sexual Battery charges allege that Kent, while employed in an authority role at the school, engaged in sexual contact with a person that was enrolled or attended the school, on three occasions, on or about April 29-30, 2021; May 20, 2021; and May 31-June 1, 2021.

Count Four on Tampering with Evidence, the charge reads: "The defendant(s) unlawfully did, knowing that an official proceeding or investigation was in progress, or was about to be or likely to be instituted, alter, destroy, conceal, or remove any record, document, or thing, with purpose to impair its value or availability as evidence in such proceeding or investigation."

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation has been the lead agency in the probe, along with a state special victims unit. 

Kent was placed on unpaid administrative leave from the Poland Police Department in June of 2021 after allegations came to light involving an individual who works in the Poland Local School District, but is not employed through the district.

On March 2, Poland Township voted unanimously to discharge a school resource officer for “immoral conduct and malfeasance in accordance with Article 7 and Article 9 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Fraternal Order of Police and Poland Township.”

In Kent's Notice of Discharge letter from Poland Chief of Police Greg Wilson, and Township Trustees Eric Ungaro, Joanne Wollet and Edward Kempers state “... you are being discharged for illegal and immoral acts with an underaged student at a school where you acted as the School Resource Officer (“SRO”).” Kent's termination from the district was based on the union contract.

Kent allegedly committed the crimes while both on and off duty. He is not currently permitted in any of the city's school buildings.

As far as Kent's role as Austintown Township trustee, the Ohio Constitution provides the law for the removal of public officers upon complaint and hearing, with Revised Code sections 3.07 to 3.10 prescribing the process. Under these laws, a public officer can be removed from office for “misconduct in office” if the officer “willfully and flagrantly exercises authority or power not authorized by law, refuses or willfully neglects to enforce the law or to perform any official duty imposed upon him by law, or is guilty of gross neglect of duty, gross immorality, drunkenness, misfeasance, malfeasance, or nonfeasance.”

A call to Kent asking for comment and whether he intends to remain in office as a trustee has not been returned as of this writing. 

When asked if he believes Kent should step down, trustee Robert Santos said he has no comment on the ongoing investigation, saying "Let's just let the proceedings go through and we'll see what happens." 

Trustee Monica Deavers said she had no comment at this time, but she hopes justice prevails.

Austintown Township Administrator Mike Dockry said " [Kent] is an elected official and can continue to hold office." Dockry added that as far as he knows, there are no official means for the trustees to remove another trustee from office.