Former LaPorte superintendent arrested on gambling charge

2014-02-03T17:45:00Z 2014-02-03T22:42:18Z Former LaPorte superintendent arrested on gambling chargeStan Maddux Times Correspondent
February 03, 2014 5:45 pm  • 

LA PORTE | The man who served as superintendent of LaPorte Community Schools was arrested in Mississippi on gambling charges just two days after the School Board accepted his resignation.

Rande Thorpe, 57, was arrested Jan. 22 in Tunica, Miss., on a gaming violation charge.

According to the probable cause affidavit that resulted in the charges, Thorpe was involved in a more than $66,000 loss to Harris Casino in Robinsonville, Miss., which is in the northwest part of the state.

He is accused of manipulating a slot machine from April 17 to April 19, according to the affidavit.

Randy Stewart, chief of Tunica County Sheriff's Office Police, said Thorpe was released the same day of his arrest on $15,000 bond.

Under Mississippi code, the offense is punishable by an up to two-year prison sentence and/or a maximum $10,000 fine.

Further details surrounding the allegations were not released by the sheriff's office, which referred all other questions to the Mississippi Gaming Commission, which put together the case against Thorpe.

The gaming commission also would not release more specifics about Thorpe's case.

"At this time, the matter is still under investigation, and the Mississippi Gaming Commission has no additional public information or comment regarding this matter," said Louis Frascogna, director of the gaming division for the Mississippi attorney general's office.

Thorpe's arrest occurred two days after the School Board accepted his sudden and unexpected request to retire.

"Absolutely shocking is the word to describe it. It's something we didn't expect," said Mike Kellems, LaPorte School Board president.

Kellems said he learned about Thorpe's legal problems for the first time when contacted by him on the telephone in mid-January.

Thorpe revealed he had a warrant out for his arrest on a gambling-related matter and said that he wanted to retire, Kellems said.

Right away, Kellems said he contacted other board members and the next day when the board gathered for an executive session to discuss the situation Thorpe submitted a letter asking to retire.

The board accepted his request less than a week later in a public meeting.

Board member Mitch Feikes said during the meeting that Thorpe expressed to him a desire to spend more time with his children in Texas and also hinted at some health issues.

Kellems said the board did not publicly reveal the criminal allegations against Thorpe because the allegations have no connection whatsoever to the district.

He said a recent audit conducted annually by the Indiana State Board of Accounts found no irregularities in school district financial books.

Kellems, though, said now that the allegations against Thorpe are known the board will need to discuss whether to have another look at the books to make sure there was no impropriety.

Thorpe had been interim superintendent since July after spending about five years as the district's chief financial officer.

Kellems said he was at the top of the list of candidates as the permanent replacement.

"We were moving towards naming him as the next superintendent of our corporation," said Kellems.

He said top administrators are helping to fulfill the duties of the vacant superintendent's position until the board names another interim superintendent to guide the corporation through the end of the school year.

"We hope to do that very, very quickly," said Kellems.

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