Mason City School Board discusses special investigation into $2.2 million of improper disbursements (AUDIO)

MASON CITY — The Mason City School Board during a workshop session Monday night discussed the recent release of a special investigation by the State Auditor’s office that showed over $2.2 million was not properly disbursed during an eight year period between July 2009 and August 2017 while Anita Micich was the district’s superintendent.

The special investigation was requested by school board president Jodi Draper after an August 2017 report showed the district improperly disbursed just over $109,000 between July 2014 and June 2015. The new report released on December 28th showed that $1.3 million was improperly disbursed as contract salary to 66 employees, which the report says exceeded the authorized salary calculated using the percentage increases approved by the board. The remaining amount was from various improper benefits disbursed.

Draper says now that the special investigation has been released, it’s up to the county attorney on whether criminal charges should be filed in the case. “We are turning the corner. We do understand the anger, we can empathize with that anger. We have turned it over to the authorities. It’s their job now to decide whether it was criminal or non-criminal.”

Draper says the special investigation shows the business of the school district under the current superintendent Dave Versteeg is moving forward in the right direction. “We have put things in place that these things can’t happen again. The best thing out of this audit on a positive note that they did the audit on Mr. Versteeg and our finance director, and they came out fine. They have operated in transparency and are adhering to Iowa Code. That is something you can put your trust in. They did not know they were being audited, and they came out fine. You can put your trust in this board, we worked hard, regardless was said in media, and not understanding what was going on, we had to do what we had to do because we took our oath very seriously, and we wanted to make sure this school district was operated in the best manner, and the most transparent manner, and doing what we could do for our students, for our teachers, and for the taxpayers.”

Board member Brent Seaton says some of the comments made by people about the school board are out of line and people need to remember that it was the school board that asked for the special investigation. “We’ve been referred to in comments and in the community as crooks. Some of us have had people come say that to our faces. Read the audit, I don’t think my name is in there in terms of receiving any funds whatsoever. It’s hurtful. It’s defamatory to refer to us as crooks, and it is hurtful. It’s hard to respond to that in an unemotional way, especially when we’re doing the best job we can.”

The special investigation also revealed that during the period that Micich was a shared superintendent between the Mason City and Clear Lake community school districts from 2010 to 2016, Clear Lake was overbilled $7370 for its portion of Micich’s salary and benefits. Versteeg asked and received the board’s approval to work with Clear Lake in remedying that situation. “With your agreement tonight I’d really like to look into that further, along with all the other sharing agreements. My logic is that if one of them was incorrectly paid, perhaps the other four were also. So with your consensus tonight, we’ll begin a process of dialogue with Clear Lake to find out more about that.”

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation is conducting a criminal investigation at the request of the Cerro Gordo County Attorney’s office to see if any charges should be filed .

You can listen back to the full discussion on the special investigation via the audio player below.