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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Garden Plain coach facing sex charges suspended without pay

By Tim Potter
The Wichita Eagle

A Garden Plain teacher and coach facing child sex-related charges has been suspended without pay by the Renwick school district board, an official said Tuesday.

Todd Puetz had previously been on administrative leave with pay. The change went into effect the day after the board approved it during a Dec. 7 meeting, district superintendent Tracy Bourne said.

The board’s decision comes after Puetz, 39, was charged in early November with electronic solicitation, attempted aggravated indecent liberties with a child and attempted criminal sodomy. All three of the charges are felonies that occurred on or about Oct. 22, court documents said.

The solicitation charge accuses him of using an electronic communication to try to “entice or solicit” someone he thought was 14 or 15 “to commit or submit to an unlawful sex act.” The other charges accuse him of trying to meet with a “child believed to be 15” to commit sex crimes.

His attorney, Dan Monnat, has said that Puetz is entitled to be presumed innocent and that Puetz, if necessary, would contest any charges until he is found not guilty.

Puetz was one of seven men arrested in October after being suspected of communicating electronically with someone they thought was an underage girl, according to police and other records. The two-day sting operation involved local and federal law enforcement agencies.

Puetz has taught physical education and health and has coached the powerhouse Garden Plain High School football team. He also has served as athletic director. Puetz remains suspended from his school duties, Bourne said.

Puetz did not request a hearing on the change in his status from administrative leave with pay to suspension without pay, Bourne said.

According to the district, Puetz’s total compensation is $63,487, including a teacher contract amount of $48,417 and $6,610 for serving as athletic director, $4,858 for coaching football and $3,602 for coaching track.

Although his pay status has changed, Puetz remains a school employee basically because the district is not aware of the evidence upon which the charges are based, Bourne said.

“We still want to continue to find as many facts” and be able to consider evidence before making a final decision on his employment, Bourne said.

Puetz faces a Jan. 5 preliminary hearing, at which a prosecutor would have to present enough evidence to convince a judge that the case should go to a trial.

Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or tpotter@wichitaeagle.com

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