Violations that caused popular Lexington coach’s ouster are not criminal, police say

Coach Todd Bretz won his first title three seasons after Paul Dunbar opened in 1990 and he’s added three more.
Coach Todd Bretz won his first title three seasons after Paul Dunbar opened in 1990 and he’s added three more. Herald-Leader

After a near season’s long absence from the team, Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Todd Bretz, the winningest head coach in Kentucky boys’ high school soccer history, has received official notice that he is no longer eligible to coach due to alleged “multiple violations of guidelines.”

A Monday letter to Bretz signed by Fayette County Schools Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk reads: “This letter serves as notification that, effective immediately, you are no longer eligible to serve in an athletic coaching role with Fayette County Public Schools. This decision is a result of the substantiation of multiple violations of guidelines,” including “Redbook” rules on booster club accounting procedures, Kentucky High School Athletic Association guidelines and Fayette County Public Schools policies.

The school district provided Lexington police information regarding the Dunbar soccer team, and “we determined this matter was not criminal in nature,” said police spokeswoman Brenna Angel.

District officials did not reveal the specific violations Caulk was referring to in his letter to Bretz.

“We do not comment on personnel matters,” district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said Friday.

Bretz declined to comment Friday.

Kentucky High School Athletic Association Commissioner Julian Tackett said his staff had “received nothing on this matter” as of Thursday night.

“It is perfectly routine for a school to investigate something, take action and then self report the violation and their action to us if they find KHSAA violations,” said Tackett. “We then decide if we feel they have taken appropriate action or if we need to add penalties.”

Tackett said the “Redbook” that governs booster clubs is the jurisdiction of the Kentucky Department of Education, which did not immediately comment Friday.

The Herald-Leader obtained, under the Kentucky Open Records Act, Caulk’s letter to Bretz along with copies of checks paid to Bretz and assistant coaches from the booster club since 2003. Also obtained were multiple emails to the district that requested an explanation for Bretz’s removal, that made pleas for reinstatement and that offered testimonies about his character by former players, parents, and coaching colleagues.

The school district also under the open records act released an email from school district attorney Shelley Chatfield to state education department official Steve Lyles, who works on Redbook booster club issues. Booster clubs help provide extracurricular and athletic opportunities for students by supporting their schools and teams.

Chatfield said in a Sept. 19 email to Lyles that “we have uncovered some payment irregularities going to a Paul Laurence Dunbar soccer coach named Todd Bretz.”

A Kentucky Department of Education division director told Chatfield in another Sept. 19 email that Lyles was following up with Fayette school officials on “a situation in which a coach was receiving payments from a booster club.”

Records show that Bretz received annual checks of $7,000 or $7,500 from the booster club over multiple years. Some of the checks are marked “player development” in the memo field.

KHSAA bylaws say the entire coaching salary shall be paid through the school board, and the Redbook sets out what payments to coaches are disallowed.

The Redbook establishes procedures for the accounting of school activity funds, which includes funds derived from fundraising activities sponsored by the school. Local boards of education control the activity funds, according to the Kentucky Department of Education website.

The Fayette district has posted a website notice that coaches are required to attend an Oct. 8 booster group training that covers “The Redbook” and other compliance issues.

Bretz’s status has puzzled players, parents and the soccer community for weeks. Bretz, assistant coach Jeff Stone and junior varsity coach Brian Lawless were all removed from the team after the second game of this season as school resumed in August. The changes occurred with no explanation from the district other than that the issue was a “personnel matter.”

At the time, district officials refused to confirm Bretz was not with the team when asked directly. Requests for comment at the time from officials at Dunbar and from Bretz himself were referred to the district’s human resources department. Human resources officials did not comment.

The team was turned over in August to two other assistant coaches, Nathan Jones Jr. and Riley Calhoon. The Bulldogs finished the regular season as the top seed in next week’s 43rd District tournament.

Stone and Lawless were reinstated by the district last month and returned to the sidelines on Sept. 26. Stone declined to comment.

Bretz, who is also a Dunbar teacher, had been the boys’ head soccer coach since the school was founded in 1990 and has four state titles (1992, 2001, 2005 and 2013). His record of 493‐169‐38 is tops among Kentucky high school boys’ soccer coaches.