By Doug Oakley
Adminstrators and parents at Berkeley High School feel a sense of betrayal after the arrest of its lead security officer on charges of theft.
William (Billy) Keys Jr., 41, of Oakland, was arrested Feb. 23 by Berkeley police after an investigation into who took and used a special-education teacher's checkbook to pay about $450 in cable and electric bills.
"There's a trust function here that has definitely been rattled," Berkeley High Principal Pasquale Scuderi said Tuesday. "We certainly expect more from our employees."
Keys was scheduled to enter a plea on one felony count of identity theft in Alameda County Superior Court on March 5 but that date was continued until March 19.
Keys has not returned phone calls seeking comment.
Scuderi said the arrest and allegation against Keys are unnerving not only because he was a fixture and a role model at the school, but also because he had access to all kinds of security information including key codes to doors and alarms.
The Berkeley police report to Alameda County prosecutors also said Keys was arrested for burglary in 1989, but it did not say if he was convicted. The report said that during a police interview, “Mr. Keys eventually admitted that he needed to take responsibility for what had happened. He stated he wanted to make the person whole for the money that had been taken.”
After his arrest, Keys was placed on administrative leave, Scuderi said.
Asked whether Keys might return to his position at the school, Scuderi said he couldn't comment because it is a personnel matter. But during a meeting of the school's safety committee, Scuderi said, "We're probably at some point going to make an offer to someone to go into that lead security position."
Scuderi said he got some criticism for sending an email to parents and reporters alerting the community to Keys' arrest on Feb. 23.
"But if we hadn't gotten out in front of this, it would eventually come out and we would have been accused of covering it up," he said.
Dave Peattie, who sits on Berkeley High School's volunteer safety committee and who worked closely with Keys over the last two years, said he never could imagine the man would break the law, especially while working in a position involving security at the school.
"I was definitely totally shocked because it didn't seem to be in his character and also because it was so stupid to risk his future for something so small," Peattie said. "I feel sorry for the guy because it was a serious lapse of judgment that may have ruined his professional life."
Another member of the school's safety committee who asked not to be identified said, "We're very concerned for him. He's an invaluable presence on the campus and has this incredible institutional memory of the place because he's been here forever."
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.