FEDERAL WAY, Wash. - Former Federal Way School Board President Tony Moore was in court hours after he resigned from his position on the board -- but did not resign from the board itself -- in a tie-breaking vote at Tuesday's regularly scheduled meeting.
Prosecutors accuse Moore of felony theft for allegedly stealing $150,000 worth of tires from a business in Portland. He told KIRO 7 Eyewitness News right before the meeting that he is innocent and plans to defend himself against the very serious allegations.
Wednesday morning's hearing in King County District Court in Seattle concerned a fugitive from justice charge related to the alleged theft. That charge was dropped, as Moore had been communicating with authorities in Oregon about court dates.
"I can't get into the case, only to say that I've hired an attorney, and I'll go down and defend myself vigorously," Moore said to KIRO 7 after leaving court.
When KIRO 7 asked why he resigned as president, he said, "The reason why I resigned is because I think the most important work that's done on the school board is for our kids. And anything that distracts from that, hurts kids. I didn't sign up to be on the school board to make the issue about me, and unfortunately it became about me, and so I felt for the good of the board and for the good of the community I would step down."
Moore has not stepped down from the board.
A spokesperson for Federal Way Public Schools said the district's policies match the state's, which means school board members are eligible to serve if they have not been convicted of a crime. In Moore's case, he is currently not convicted, only charged, with theft.
The school board is also under heavy scrutiny from parents for a $60,000 trip to Europe. The school district paid for five people to go for 19 days in September, to evaluate and plan a "Global Learning Initiative" that would pair Federal Way's Schools with others around the globe. The five-year plan includes goals to host 100 exchange students and teach every student at least one new language.
"It's going to equip our students with the skills to be successful in a global economy," said Superintendent Rob Neu. "You've got to take the time to learn about their systems in their schools in their countries then you can come back and establish those Skype and telephone relationships."
Critics don't think the trip was worth it.
"I think it's a waste of our taxpayer money," said Monica Regules, who has a ninth-grade son who attends Public Academy in Federal Way. "It looks like they're spending money that they should have spent out of their pocket instead of school funds."
Federal Way Public Schools said the money for the trip will be coming out of the 2013-14 budget. Carol Gregory is running for the District 4 Federal Way board seat.
"I think if you're going to study, there are a lot of ways to study and maybe you have to send one person or possibly two," said Gregory.
She thinks the school system should focus more on other priorities.
"Our test scores are not that good, our graduation rates haven't' improved, we've got a lot of work to do to prepare our students for the future and the Global Initiative is only a small part of that," said Gregory.
Neu brushed off critics that called this trip a junket.
"Oh, this was work. This is really hard work going overseas and traveling to other countries," said Neu.
Neu also traveled with Moore in May to China and Australia at a cost of $33,351 for 21 days. Money for that trip came out of the 2012-13 budget.
Moore was arrested Sept. 17 at SeaTac Airport on aggravated theft charges before he could leave on the controversial Europe trip.