INDIANAPOLIS – An attorney has filed a defamation lawsuit against Hamilton Southeastern School Corporation and a local YMCA director on behalf of a swimming coach accused of stealing nearly $17,000 from the YMCA.
Ken Stopkotte resigned in August 2010 as head swimming coach at Fishers High School after admitting he falsified swimmers’ times. USA Swimming subsequently banned him for two years. Stopkotte is also known for appearing on 20/20 to say that sexual abuse was a problem in the sport of swimming.
A few months after his resignation, Stopkotte was arrested in Tennessee and accused of stealing money from the YMCA. At the time, investigators said Stopkotte had made a deal to rent the Fishers High School pool to the Fishers YMCA for $6,000 a year. The district claimed it never received the money and didn’t know the pool was being rented out.
Stopkotte was charged with eight counts of felony theft and spent time in jail as a result. Those charges were eventually dismissed in March 2012.
The arrest—and subsequent dismissal of those charges—is at the heart of the defamation and malicious prosecution lawsuit filed in Marion County.
“Ken Stopkotte was damaged emotionally and financially by the phony criminal charges,” said Jon Little of Saeed & Little, the firm representing Stopkotte. “This lawsuit will hold the school district and the YMCA’s Mel Goldstein accountable for Stopkotte spending ten days in a Tennessee jail awaiting extradition to Indiana during the Thanksgiving holidays and for a lifetime of shame suffered by the malicious prosecution.”
The complaint accuses the defendants of making false statements about Stopkotte that caused him to be arrested and prosecuted. Stopkotte’s attorney said the school’s investigation sided with its employees even though the people involved knew that Stopkotte hadn’t stolen money from the YMCA. According to the complaint, that money was used to pay salaries of Fishers High School coaches and buy equipment for the swim team.
The YMCA’s money hadn’t been directly given to the school. Instead, it went to accounts for FAST (Fishers Area Swimming Tigers), a privately-owned club started to promote swimming in Fishers. According to the complaint, Athletic Director John Miles had Stopkotte set up a bank account for FAST. Fishers High School Treasurer Julie Roach was one of the signers on the account. Miles was also on the board for FAST.
“There was no evidence or even an allegation that I used the money for personal use,” Stopkotte said. “Nowhere in the Official Affidavit for Probable Cause did it state that I personally misused or otherwise used the nearly $17,000 in question for my own personal benefit. Rather the document refers to me depositing the money into a ‘private account’ for Swim Club expenses.”
That private account had Miles’ blessing, the complaint said. Little said Miles had the treasurer sign for the account to avoid scrutiny from the school’s central office. He also believes an impartial investigation would have discovered that no money had been mishandled, thus Stopkotte would not have been arrested and charged.