October 27, 2008

Coaches had been asked to leave press box

Kim Sloan

Three LaFayette High School coaches who were arrested for possession of alcoholic beverages on school grounds at Southeast High School Friday night were asked to leave the press box during the football game between LaFayette and Southeast before deputies arrived, a sheriff’s office report said.

Another man was also arrested. The men were asked to “watch their language” by a Southeast teacher and were being loud, according to the report.

Jason Carter, assistant principal at Southeast, called deputies to the press box and said “he could smell the strong odor of what he believed to be alcoholic beverages,” the report said. A deputy gave the men — Michael Dunfee, LaFayette’s baseball coach; Norman Hodge, golf coach and girl’s basketball assistant coach; James Neal, boy’s basketball coach; and Benjamin Neal, who is not employed by the school system — breathalyzer tests. The report said they “admitted that they had been drinking before they came to the game.”

The men were charged with possession of an alcoholic beverage on school grounds after Whitfield superintendent Katie Brochu asked deputies by telephone to arrest them because the school system has “a zero tolerance for the use of alcohol on school grounds,” the report said. Brochu did not immediately return a phone message on Monday.

• Neal, 22, of 5395 W. Armuchee Road, Summerville, had a blood alcohol content reading of .091, according to the report.

• Dunfee, 33, of 116 Melissa Drive, Ringgold, had a reading of .032.

• Hodge, 37, of 11 Foster Mill Drive, LaFayette, had a reading of .065.

• Neal, 27, of 610 N. Main St., LaFayette, had a reading of .026.

The men were released on $750 bond Friday night.

Contacted Monday afternoon, Dunfee and Neal said they could not comment. Hodge did not immediately return a phone call.

In a statement Monday, Walker County Schools superintendent Melissa Mathis said, “With rumors, supposition and tales spinning around this incident, it is the concern of Walker County Schools to investigate deeply and thoroughly to discover and validate the truth of this matter.” The statement did not indicate if the men were still teaching.