Ex-Detroit School Board president faces charges he fondled himself in front of superintendent

By Corey Williams, AP
Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ex-Detroit schools official faces obscenity charge

DETROIT — The former president of the Detroit School Board appeared in court Tuesday to face charges he fondled himself in front of the woman who was then the district’s superintendent.

Otis Mathis, 55, was released on $50,000 bond and ordered not to have contact with children at any school. His defense attorney, Odie Uddyback III, described the charges as political and objected to the no contact order as misleading since the allegations involve no children.

“I don’t want that broadcast across the country that this man is messing with children,” Uddyback said. “It’s unfair. He’s already getting ambushed. A political ambush today.”

Neither Mathis or his attorney would comment after the hearing.

Mathis faces charges of misconduct in office and obscene conduct. He resigned from the board June 17 after then-Superintendent Teresa Gueyser complained to the school district’s Public Safety department that he had fondled himself in front her during a private meeting.

Mathis wrote to the board then that he “made inappropriate actions toward a professional employee” and regretted his actions.

Prosecutors charged him last week, and Mathis turned himself in to authorities on Friday.

Mathis, a former substitute teacher in Detroit, was elected to the school board in 2008. He ran into problems earlier this year when several e-mails he had written were published, showing he had difficulty writing complete and coherent sentences.

In an e-mail about the district’s relationship with private foundations, Mathis wrote: “Do DPS control the Foundation or outside group? If an outside group control the foundation, then what is DPS board row with selection of is director? Our we mixing DPS and None DPS row’s, and who is the watch dog?”

Mathis admitted having a learning disability and received support from other board members, who had elected him president of the 11-member body. Board member LaMar Lemmons told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Mathis uses correct grammar when speaking but has problems writing.

“I told him everything should be looked over,” Lemmons said. “He is extremely intelligent and can figure out things, and is almost a savant in mathematics.”

But Mathis’ support on the board evaporated with Gueyser’s complaint. When he tried to regain his post after initially resigning, his efforts were quickly rebuffed.

Magistrate Renee McDuffee ordered him Tuesday to stay away from Gueyser and school board members, surrender his passport and stay within the state.

Misconduct in office is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Obscene conduct is a misdemeanor that carries a 90-day jail term.

A preliminary examination has been scheduled for July 30.

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