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State panel censures educators

A former Pinellas School Board member and a teacher have been reprimanded by the state Education Practices Commission.

John Espey, who holds a teaching certificate in the areas of guidance, junior college and math, was accused of forging the names of several other School Board members so they would receive unwanted products, according to commission files.

He was arrested and charged with forgery in February 1993, and entered a pretrial intervention program, according to the files. Espey was placed on 12 months' probation and ordered to pay $120 in court costs, according to the files.

Espey agreed to a written reprimand, which will be placed in his file.

This reprimand will give notice to anyone who might employ Espey as a teacher in the future, said Martin Schaap, bureau chief for professional practices. Espey currently is not employed as a teacher, Schaap said.

Neither Espey nor his attorney could be reached for comment.

Thomas L. Dixon, an educational diagnostician at Richard L. Sanders School, pleaded guilty to two counts of grand theft in Pasco County in 1982. The court withheld adjudication of guilt and placed Dixon on three years' probation, according to EPC documents.

Dixon did not report this on district and state teachers' applications, according to EPC files.

Dixon agreed to accept a written reprimand and a two-year probation, according to files.

Schaap said the penalty took into account the fact that the incidents happened in 1980.

"There's no additional criminal activity that we were able to discover," Schaap said.

Another factor the commission considered, Schaap said, was his employment record with the Pinellas County School System. Dixon has worked there since 1981, Schaap said, and, other than a five-day suspension for this, he has a good record.

The penalty is the lightest one he could get in such a case, said Larry Black, Dixon's attorney.

"It's basically a slap on the wrist," Black said.