LEXINGTON — A Lexington village council member and former substitute teacher for Lexington Local Schools has been indicted for allegedly disseminating matter harmful to juveniles.
Erin Underwood, 43, was indicted by a Richland County grand jury on three counts of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles.
One count is a fifth-degree felony that could carry a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison and a $2,500 fine, if found guilty.
Teri Burnside, chief criminal attorney with the Richland County Prosecutor's Office, said Wednesday that law enforcement agencies and Richland County Children Services began an investigation in December 2019.
The male victim in the case was born on Jan. 20, 2002, making him 17 years old at the time of the crime.
"If (the victim) was 18 years old and it was between two consenting adults, it would not have been a crime," Burnside said.
Underwood currently serves on Lexington Village Council after being re-elected to a second four-year term in November 2019.
Lexington Mayor Brian White said the Lexington council and administration would continue to gather information to determine if Underwood could keep her elected seat if charged with a crime.
"We are aware of the indictment, and it's not a judgment yet," White said. "What we don't have right now is we don't have any details from the investigation of the case, it's still ongoing.
"At this point it's about collecting information so council can evaluate," the mayor said.
Underwood heads the safety service committee in Lexington and also serves on the boards of rules and personnel and public utilities. The Mansfield Police Department was contacted to handle the case due to a potential conflict of interest.
On Jan. 28, Mansfield police Chief Keith Porch said the department was notified in early January of a criminal complaint concerning possible improper behavior involving a substitute teacher and a student. The substitute teacher was later identified as Underwood.
Charges of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles were filed with the Richland County Prosecutor's Office on Jan. 24.
Lexington Supt. Mike Ziegelhofer said the district stopped using Underwood as a substitute teacher as soon as he was made aware of the criminal complaint against her.
"Over Christmas break, I got a call from the chief of police in Lexington telling me of a complaint that had been filed against Erin," Ziegelhofer said. "He went into detail with what that complaint was, and at that time when I got finished with that conversation I contacted our principals and told them we would no longer be using her."
Ziegelhofer told Richland Source in January that his understanding was the alleged incident did not occur on school grounds and that a cell phone was involved.