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Superintendent Anita Micich reacts during a Clear Lake School Board meeting in this December 2014 file photo. The Mason City School Board via email in March discussed calling a special, closed session to discuss terminating Micich's contract due to "continued insubordination" to board members. 

Quilts of Valor recognize six North Iowa veterans

NORA SPRINGS | Quilts of Valor awarded six North Iowa military veterans with custom-made quilts on Wednesday at the Nora Springs Care Center activity room. 

The five in-person recipients were: James Billings, U.S. Air Force; Tommy Burnett, U.S. Army; James Elsbury, U.S. Naval Reserves and Gene Morische, US Army as well as Timothy Quam, U.S. Army Reserves.

James Lunde was not in attendance at the 25-person event but will be presented his quilt in Weslaco, Texas.

More than 24 names have been submitted to the North Central Iowa chapter of Quilts of Valor which was started in September 2018 and meets once monthly to sew quilt tops. After the tops have been prepared, they're sent off to longarm quilters to be finished then are bound and washed. 

According to Leona Montag, who heads up the north central Iowa group, the quilts take anywhere from two days to two weeks to complete based on the intricacy of the designs and the pieces used. 

In terms of patterns, Montag said that "We think red, white, and blue but at times we know who we are making them for so then they can feature fabric designs for the branch of service and eagles." But, ultimately, the exact patterns are at the discretion of the quilter.

As a foundation, Quilts of Valor (based out of Winterset) aims to "cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor." That mission is carried out by quilters countrywide who have made more than 208,000 quilts since the not-for-profit foundation handed out its first quilt in November 2003 to a soldier from Minnesota who lost a leg during the Iraq War.

Any veteran of a war can be awarded a quilt from the foundation if there name is submitted by a friend or family member through the group's website. The individual quilts are given out based on the order of submissions though individuals who served in World War II or the Korean War are prioritized. 

Donations can be made by check to the Quilts of Valor Foundation. For more information, contact Leona Montag, North Central Iowa leader for Quilts of Valor, at 641-749-5381.

The next presentation will be in Mason City tentatively set for January 13. 

DCI investigating after audit finds Mason City Schools improperly spent more than $2.2 million under Micich

MASON CITY | The Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation is investigating the Mason City Community School District after a state audit identified more than $2.2 million in "improper disbursements" from 2009 to 2017.

The report, released by Auditor Mary Mosiman, said $1.3 million of that total was related to salaries to 66 employees. The figures "exceeded the authorized salary calculated using the percentage increases approved by the (school board) and other monetary benefits."

Series: Mason City School Board emails shed light on Micich buyout

According to the report, Anita Micich took in some $473,978 in improper salary and benefits from the period of July 2009 through August 2017, $230,429 of which was in "improper salary."

Micich was the superintendent from 2008 to 2016.

Additionally, Micich's resignation agreement contained $171,998 of "improper disbursements."

Thomas Jumper, the former executive director for educator quality and leadership and grade 5-12 programs, who resigned from the MCCSD in 2016, was found to have received $150,185 in improper salary and benefits in the period the report studied.

Ramona Jeffrey, director of finance for the MCCSD until her retirement in July 2015, received a reported $127,342 over the time studied.

John Berg, who replaced Jeffrey as the director of finance until his ouster in June 2017, received a reported $72,219 over the time the report studied.

Iowa DCI Special Agent in Charge Mike Krapfl said the DCI has a copy of the report by State Auditor Mary Mosiman.

The DCI is investigating this at the request of the Cerro Gordo County Attorney’s Office.

Arian Schuessler / Arian Schuessler, The Globe Gazette 

Mason City Superintendent of Schools Anita Micich reacts Sept. 10, 2013 in the Cerro Gordo County Auditors office after hearing the news that both the ISL and PPEL school funding measures had passed.

Under a sharing agreement, Micich managed both the Mason City and Clear Lake districts. Clear Lake was billed for her time. The report stated that Mason City overcharged Clear Lake $7,370. That amount was paid.

The sharing agreement covered 2010 to 2016.

The audit includes $108,673 in improper disbursements identified in a prior audit that covered fiscal year 2015. The district requested the broader review.

If any charges are filed, they will be filed through the Cerro Gordo County Attorney’s Office and any information that is public record will be available, Krapfl said.

“If an audit completed by the Iowa State Auditor’s Office involves a criminal allegation, the DCI, or any law enforcement agency with jurisdiction, can be asked to investigate,” he said. “Not all audits completed by the Iowa State Auditor’s Office involve criminal charges.”

“My office will review the report and make a determination on the appropriate next step concerning whether any criminal laws have been violated,” Cerro Gordo County Attorney Carlyle Dalen told the Globe Gazette. “This report will also be available to the attorneys who represent the Mason City School District on civil matters.”

After the first audit was released in Aug. 2017, Dalen noted that civil complaints, including an attempt to recuperate funds, would be pursued by the school district's attorney.

“For clarification, the county attorney’s office does not represent the school and has no involvement in the contractual relations, policy or recoupment for civil damages that may be presented through civil litigation,” Dalen previously said.

Criminal charges are separate from the civil and financial matters, Dalen said, and the burden of proof is different between the two as well.

Field 1Field 9
EmployeeTotal Improper Salary and Benefits
Anita Micich473,978.74
Thomas Jumper150,185.41
Ramona Jeffrey127,341.80
Randy Meyer117,290.12
Hal Minear116,188.92
Susan Deike113,010.52
Jennifer Wilmarth78,077.33
John Berg72,218.65
Jerry Siglin68,816.21
Thomas Novotney62,859.49
Barbara Wells54,866.70
Julie Bigler50,007.40
Don Teeter47,941.45
Richard Huff42,038.40
Mike Penca38,769.70
Brooke Brunsvold33,122.85
Jeff Poppe32,938.19
Lisa Christianson26,880.32
Debra Wilson24,223.94
Shelly Nelson23,323.94
Kris Murphy20,286.71
Kristi Penner18,045.57
Dave Ciccetti17,593.64
Kara Hutchison13,101.25
Teresa Schlichting12,355.40
Jodie Anderson11,083.07
Doug Abbas10,508.50
Audit of Mason City Schools
Everything you need to know about the Mason City Schools audit



Ashley Stewart / ASHLEY STEWART, file 

Louise Swanson and her daughter Eileen Mediger join Leona Montag, Quilts of Valor North Central Iowa leader, in displaying the quilt for Agnes Lewis, a U.S. Army veteran who served as a combat nurse in three wars during a ceremony in November.

Shutdown could block federal aid to farmers hit by trade war

WASHINGTON — The end of 2018 seemed to signal good things to come for America's farmers. Fresh off the passage of the farm bill, which reauthorized agriculture, conservation and safety net programs, the USDA last week announced a second round of direct payments to growers hardest hit by President Donald Trump's trade war with China.

Then the government shut down.

The USDA in a statement issued last week assured farmers that checks would continue to go out during the first week of the shutdown. But direct payments for farmers who haven't certified production, as well as farm loans and disaster assistance programs, will be put on hold beginning next week, and won't start up again until the government reopens.

There is little chance of the government shutdown ending soon. Trump and Congress are no closer to reaching a deal over his demand for border wall funding, and both sides say the impasse could drag well into January.

Though certain vital USDA programs will remain operational in the short term, that could change if the shutdown lasts for more than a few weeks.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, helps feed roughly 40 million Americans. According to the USDA, eligible recipients are guaranteed benefits through January. Other feeding programs, including WIC, which provides food aid and nutrition counseling for pregnant women, new mothers and children, and food distribution programs on Indian reservations, will continue on a local level, but additional federal funding won't be provided. School lunch programs will continue through February.

USDA earmarked about $9.5 billion in direct payments for growers of soybeans, corn, wheat, sorghum and other commodities most affected by tariffs. The first round of payments went out in September. The deadline to sign up for the second round of payments is January 15.

The impact of the shutdown, which began shortly before most federal workers were scheduled for a holiday break, started coming into focus by midweek.

About 420,000 employees are working without pay, while another 380,000 are being forced to stay home. In the past, federal employees have been paid retroactively. But government contractors won't get paid for hours they'll lose staying home, causing problems for those who rely on hourly wages.

In anticipation of the financial bind many federal workers and contractors may soon find themselves in, the Office of Personnel Management offered some advice: haggle with landlords, creditors and mortgage companies for lower payments until the shutdown is over.

The shutdown also is affecting national parks, although unevenly: Some remain accessible with bare-bones staffing levels, some are operating with money from states or charitable groups, while others are locked off.