The onetime Rockford public school superintendent has been charged with embezzlement after authorities say he spent more than $42,000 on a work credit card over about a 20-month period on electronics and other items until shortly before he resigned.
Paul Durand, 63, was charged Friday in Wright County District Court with 11 felony counts of embezzlement of public funds that spans from February 2018 until October 2019. Durand was also charged with three counts of theft by swindle.
After leading the district since 2010, Durand and the school board reached a "separation agreement" on Nov. 18 that led to his resignation and included a $30,000 payment to him from the district.
School administrators have yet to disclose the reason for his departure from the post, which paid him a salary of about $160,000 annually, but the agreement does not include any admissions of wrongdoing by Durand.
Durand was charged by summons and is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 4.
Attorney Peter Wold, speaking on behalf of Durand, said that his client "had no intent to swindle or defraud anyone. … All of his expenditures went to the school board.
"I'm surprised he got charged, frankly. They are going to have to prove intent to swindle. They are not going to be able to do that."
Wold said "it was devastating" for Durand to have to resign, and he has not had a job since.
According to the criminal complaint:
An annual audit of district finances revealed that Durand used his work credit card to make many unauthorized purchases. They included two Apple Watches, a laptop computer, home security equipment, a vehicle dash camera, an underwater camera, a Fitbit fitness monitor and more than $3,800 in gasoline purchases that should have been covered by his $650 monthly vehicle stipend.
Durand was interviewed by a sheriff's detective in January and declined to answer questions about the investigation other than to identify the location of many of the apparently personal items purchased with the district-issued credit card.
He said 52 of them were at his home, six were in his son's possession, 45 were in the district office and 68 were either discarded or unable to be located.
Durand was succeeded as the head of the nearly 1,700-student district by Rhonda Dean, who at the time was Rockford High School's principal.