Tonight the Fox C-6 school board unanimously approved CFO John Brazeal’s request to ask the state auditor to take a look at the district. Brazeal expanded upon the questionable activity he outlined in his memo to the board. Here’s what he said:
- Many transactions of a personal nature were made.
- Bond proceeds were used to hide deficits.
- Brazeal said “my predecessor” shredded documents and destroyed electronic evidence. That person was Mark McCutchen. I discussed McCutchen’s hasty retirement in my last post.
- Brazeal expects civil and potentially criminal action to come as a result of the state audit and the district investigation.
- He said he has been told that the district operated on intimidation, but that not just one person was responsible for this.
- Superintendent Dianne Critchlow’s $240 donation, on her district credit card, to the Missouri School Administrators PAC, was illegal. One of MSAPAC’s legislative concerns is “Changing the perception of some legislators that school administration costs are too high and that school administrators are overpaid.” Critchlow sure made their job more difficult. It sounds like this is one charge that will be easily reversed.
- Brazeal said the board was in many cases “voting on faith” (translation: taking Critchlow’s word for it and not doing their due diligence). But he caveated that by saying that some documents that were presented to the board were doctored after the meetings.
- Board member Steve Holloway asked if it was legally possible to not make Critchlow’s last golden parachute payment of about $65,000, which is due in three days per her settlement with the district. Brazeal said district attorneys advised that Critchlow would be entitled to a hearing, and all payments to her must be made until a decision is made after the hearing, so it is too late to stop that payment. But he said that he will be working to identify illegal transactions and recouping the money from funds that are still owed to people. Critchlow is getting a paycheck through October, so that gives the district 2.5 months to garnish her wages. But it sounds like she’s not the only person that could be subject to this.
- The memo mentioned unauthorized rates of compensation. Brazeal said, as I recall, that people who write the checks were ordered to pay certain people more than what contracts allowed for. Perhaps this explains the discrepancies between contract pay and actual pay that I found here?
Board member Cheryl Hermann asked a number of questions about this potential audit. She mentioned the last audit of Fox that took place in 2001-02. She said it didn’t go as deep as she thought it should have, and asked if we could ensure this one would go deep. Others said it is up to the auditor, but they didn’t seem to be concerned that the upcoming audit would not go deep enough. Hermann also asked why the last audit didn’t lead to changes that would have prevented the current situation, to which I reply that it’s because board members like Hermann didn’t do their job. They didn’t bother to look at credit card statements to see the obvious malfeasance contained therein, or to read contracts. She also asked how we can prevent this in the future. Well, first we need the voters to stop electing rubber-stamp board members (like Hermann). Voters need to look past the NEA endorsement and figure out which candidates will be independent overseers of the district.
Finally, Brazeal and Post-Dispatch reporter Leah Thorsen talked to state auditor Tom Schweich and said that he would be inclined to take the board up on its request.
Fox board votes unanimously to request a state audit. I talked to Tom Schweich this afternoon. He said he was inclined to order the audit.
— Leah Thorsen (@leahthorsen) August 13, 2014
Holloway noted that there will be an open forum with the superintendent search consultant on September 2 for residents to give their input on what traits the new district head should have. A survey will also be posted on the district website.