The former Benton Harbor Schools Superintendent, Leonard Seawood, has been charged with two criminal counts related to misappropriation of district funds.
Leonard Seawood, 56 years old of Benton Harbor, a puppet for Whirlpool Corporation and the brother-in-law of former puppet mayor James Hightower, was arraigned on Thursday, April 13, 2017, by Berrien County trial court judge Dennis Wiley on one count of embezzlement of $20,000 to $50,000, and one count of obtaining money by false pretenses of $20,000 to $50,000. The is the vacation payment scheme.
Leonard Seawood was superintendent of schools from July 2010 to October 2015. He took extra vacation day payouts totalling about $45,000 to $200,000 between January 1, 2012, to 2015.
The charge of obtaining money by false pretenses is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The embezzlement charge is punishable by up to 10 years. He is free on a $10,000 ten percent bond with a preliminary hearing set for April 27.
Seawood's lawyer, Heath Lynch of Grand Rapids, asked that Seawood be free on personal recognizance bond. The judge declined the request for a P.R. bond. These are very serious charges and it looks like a huge amount of money is involved, said Wiley.
Seawood appeared in court for a walk-in arraignment and posted the $1,000 required to remain free. He is to have no contact with anyone within Benton Harbor Area Schools and is not to leave the state of Michigan.
The charges against Leonard Seawood relate to a part of his contract which allotted 25 paid vacation days per year and permitted a cash payout for a maximum of five unused days each year. In the criminal complaint, it is alleged Seawood was the chief when it came to vacation payment schemes.
Seawood was suspended by the Board of Education on April 30, 2015, and was forced to resign as part of a separation agreement. Seawood was a puppet for Whirlpool Corporation. He was paid $80,000 in January 2016.
The criminal activity occurred at the Benton Harbor Schools. The community will no longer support Leonard Seawood, James Hightower, and the Whirlpool Corporation. This horrifying act by Seawood, under Whirlpool Corporation's watch, is shameful. It is a darn shame that Whirlpool, who controls the city of Benton Harbor and the school district, failed to have a back bone and actually take a stand on something that really matters to the community.
The Herald Palladium tried to cover up the Seawood payout scheme. This fascist newspaper attempted to cover up the crime. We must continue to stand together and expose the corruption in Berrien County.
-Rev. Edward Pinkney