St. Joseph School District Concerns Draw FBI Interest

Date 2014/4/11 5:27:19 | Topic: News

(newspressnow.com)- The FBI is looking into issues surrounding operations of the St. Joseph School District, according to two unnamed sources.
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Those sources also said FBI agents met with at least one member of the school district administration.

“The FBI can neither confirm or deny any investigation,” said Kurt Lipanovich, a special agent in the FBI’s St. Joseph office.
“However, the FBI is always interested in listening to allegations of financial fraud or misuse of funds involving the St. Joseph School District.”

Steve Huff, assistant to the superintendent, confirmed that the FBI met with Superintendent Fred Czerwonka at about 10:30 a.m. on Thursday.
FBI agents identified as Mr. Lipanovich and C. Andrew Thomure also visited the home of Human Resources Director Doug Flowers on Thursday afternoon. They were at the home for nearly an hour and a half.

Questions surrounding the district first surfaced last month when Chris Danford, a member of the Board of Education, raised concerns about stipends paid to administrators. Ms. Danford said the stipends enhanced administrative salaries without going through the proper channel for board discussion and approval.

A few days later, the district’s chief financial officer, Beau Musser, was placed on paid administrative leave. Officials have declined to comment on Mr. Musser’s status or say why he was placed on leave.

Meanwhile, the board, during its monthly meeting Thursday evening, listened to a representative from the Missouri state auditor’s office lay out a timeline for its audit of district finances.
Last week, the Missouri auditor’s office contacted the district about conducting an audit of its budget. Audit manager Kelly Davis would not say whether the move was related to recent financial and personnel issues.

Ms. Davis said the audit will be done in three phases.

“Tonight is the entrance conference, where we notify the board,” she said. “Then we will begin our field work phase. We hope to be in field work on April 21.

“The first stage of the audit is when we review school records and procedures, and discuss with school officials and outside the school. This work will be done on site.”

Ms. Davis said they will use the standard objectives, which include a review of internal controls, management functions, legal compliance, administrative and financial transactions, meeting minutes and other measures. She added that the audit period will be for the current fiscal year, but they reserve the right to ask questions prior to that period if necessary.

“At the end of the field work stage is when we develop our findings,” she said. “Usually, we have a pre-exit conference with management and the board in a closed session. Our findings are closed information until they are public in our audit report.”

Ms. Davis didn’t give a time frame for completion of the audit. She said the cost would be covered by the state and not the school district.
Ms. Davis also said anyone wishing to provide information regarding the audit or district finances can call (800) 347-8597.

The board also said goodbye Thursday to members Sarah Siemens and Sue Wagner. Judge Dan Kellogg swore in Kappy Hodges and Lori Prussman as new members.

The first action for the new board was in selecting Brad Haggard as president, replacing Dan Colgan. Martin Rucker was elected vice president, replacing Mr. Haggard. Ms. Hodges nominated Ms. Danford for vice president, but it did not get a second.

The board also voted to appoint Wendy Czerwonka, wife of Dr. Czerwonka, the title of homeless coordinator for 2014-2015. Mrs. Danford was the only “no” vote for that appointment.
“This appears to look like nepotism. I don’t know if it is or not, but it certainly has the appearance of it,” Ms. Danford said.

In his superintendent’s report, Dr. Czerwonka again apologized for his awarding stipends without board approval. He said he walked into a situation he did not make.

“I respectfully ask that you allow me to do the job that you hired me to do. Please allow me to be the superintendent, and we will be that premier school district,” he said to applause.

Ms. Danford countered that speech by reminding him that the board is the final authority.
“Respectfully, I understand you have a job to do as superintendent,” she said. “But over the superintendent, over the team, is the Board of Education.

“Because when push comes to shove, the seven people up here are the ones who are responsible.”



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