Former LaPorte superintendent arrested for gambling violation


It appears felony criminal allegations involving gambling had something to dowith the sudden decision by the La Porte Schools superintendent to retire.

Rande Thorpe, 57, was arrested January 22 in Tunica, Mississippi on a charge of gaming violation.

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,which is in the northwest part of the state.

He allegedly manipulated a shot machine from April 17 to April 19, according tothe affidavit.

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

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

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

''I don't comment on anyone else's arrest,'' said Stewart.

The gaming commission also would not release more specifics aboutThorpe's alleged actions.

''At this time the matter is still under investigation, and the MississippiGaming 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 hissudden request to retire.

''Absolutely shocking is the word to describe it. It's something we didn'texpect,'' said La Porte School Board president Mike Kellems.

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

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

Right away, Kellems said he contacted other board members and the next daywhen the board gathered for an executive session to discuss the situation Thorpe submitteda 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 expressedto him a desire to spend more time with his children in Texas and also hinted atsome health issues.

Kellems said the board did not publicly reveal the criminal allegationsagainst Thorpe because the allegations have no connection whatsoever to theschool corporation.

He said a recent audit conducted annually by the Indiana State Board of Accountsfound no irregularities in the school corporation financial books.Kellems, though, said now that the allegations against Thorpe are knownthe board will need to discuss whether to have another look at the books to make surethere was no impropriety.

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

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

''We were moving towards naming him as the next superintendent of ourcorporation,'' said Kellems.

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

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