Ethics commission clears former Clay County superintendent

Charlie Van Zant Jr. denied fraud, plagiarism allegations

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – The former superintendent of Clay County schools, who was accused last year of fraud and plagiarism by a former high school principal, has been cleared by the Florida Commission on Ethics.

Charlie Van Zant Jr. denied the accusations lodged against him last August, calling them a political maneuver, as they came amid a heated election campaign.

READ: Commission on Ethics findings in Van Zant case

Van Zant eventually lost that campaign to challenger Addison Davis.

The complaints against him were lodged in an open letter to the school board, former Keystone Heights High School principal Dr. Susan Sailor, who accused Van Zant of falsely labeling students with learning disabilities and forcing staff to write papers that he used to complete his master's degree.

Because members of the school board and the superintendent are elected officials, the district does not have the authority to investigate their conduct. According to Florida law, a sworn complaint with the Commission on Ethics was required to initiate an investigation into conduct of elected officials.

The commission announced in a news release Wednesday that it had found no probable cause for the allegations against Van Zant.

Van Zant sent a letter to the Florida Commission on Ethics, urging the investigation. He said it would clearly vindicate him.

READ: Van Zant's letter to Florida Commission on Ethics

The commission's announcement said it found no probable cause to believe that Van Zant misused public resources to get his master's degree, resulting in a salary increase. It also found no probable cause to believe that he "disclosed or used information not available to the general public and gained from his public position to secure a gain or benefit for himself."