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There was a multitude of topics broached at the Mason City Community School District Board of Education on Monday night. 

The board heard opening contract proposals by teachers from the Mason City Education Association. 

It approved the 2019-2020 annual budget while passing a budget guarantee resolution.

And it reached decisions on a trio of issues stemming from a state auditor's special investigation that was publicly released in December 2018. 

The board moved to reimburse Clear Lake for $6,101.10 caused by over billing between 2010 and 2016, pay $19,985.87 for the state auditor's report and repay eight district employees that special investigators found were underpaid in total by $24,182.99.

A topic less covered

There was a fourth topic related to the state auditor's report that the board pegged for discussion at a "later date:" the state audit's finding that the district had more than $2.2 million in "improper disbursements" from 2009 to 2017.

Board Director Scott Warren wondered aloud when the board would be addressing the improper disbursements or "over payments," since it already had decided on what to do with the eight employees who were underpaid. 

It was part of a plank in his rationale for not paying back those eight employees. Warren and fellow board director Lorrie Lala were the only two to vote against reimbursing the employees.

Despite the dissent and the targeted line of questioning, Warren didn't get a concrete answer to his question. The only real response was that it would "be discussed at a later date."

"There is no time frame for further discussion on over payments by the board," said Mason City School District Superintendent Dave Versteeg.

Versteeg also said that the district has not directly contacted people listed in the auditor's report.

And he clarified that the district went through all payroll records of the employees listed in the special investigation and found that no employee received more salary than their contract listed. He maintained that all contract amounts and payroll records match.

"The Special Investigation Report does not fault the employees listed in the report as improperly paid but faults the district's procedures and internal controls," Versteeg said.

The audit studied financials from 2009 through 2017, almost entirely during the time that former Superintendent Anita Micich was in charge.

And it report does acknowledge that, in the time since, the district has taken corrective action to help ensure that such improper disbursements do not happen again.

Continued investigation

But the other issue holding up any further, substantive discussion is The Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation looking into the report at the behest of the Cerro Gordo County Attorney’s Office.

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At the meeting, it was stated that the matter was still being investigated. Which is why, in part, board member Jacob Schweitzer said he called a point of order when the subject came up during the meeting.  

"Because it is still being investigated it would be inappropriate for me to make any comment at this time," Schweitzer said. 

DCI Special Agent in Charge Michael Krapfl confirmed that the case is still with the DCI. Krapfl has previously noted that the DCI does investigate financial audits where there are criminal violations. 

Individuals listed in the audit as having received improper disbursements either would not comment or failed to respond entirely.

According to Versteeg, and laid out in the report, there are several categories of improper disbursements, or improper salary.

The category that includes the most people listed in the report is based on procedural matters. Those employees received a percentage increase that differed from the percentage increase approved by the board.

The Auditor's Office concluded there was not proper documentation in the board minutes to support the pay raise given to certain administrative staff and any percentage greater than what the board approved was "improper."

Former Superintendent Micich, who the audit lists has having received $473,978.74 in improper salary and benefits, did not respond to phone and email messages.

Former administrator T.J. Jumper and former CFO Ramona Jeffrey also did not respond.

Improper Salary and Benefits for Mason City Schools employees over $10,000

Field 1 Field 9
Employee Total Improper Salary and Benefits
Anita Micich 473,978.74
Thomas Jumper 150,185.41
Ramona Jeffrey 127,341.80
Randy Meyer 117,290.12
Hal Minear 116,188.92
Susan Deike 113,010.52
Jennifer Wilmarth 78,077.33
John Berg 72,218.65
Jerry Siglin 68,816.21
Thomas Novotney 62,859.49
Barbara Wells 54,866.70
Julie Bigler 50,007.40
Don Teeter 47,941.45
Richard Huff 42,038.40
Mike Penca 38,769.70
Brooke Brunsvold 33,122.85
Jeff Poppe 32,938.19
Lisa Christianson 26,880.32
Debra Wilson 24,223.94
Shelly Nelson 23,323.94
Kris Murphy 20,286.71
Kristi Penner 18,045.57
Dave Ciccetti 17,593.64
Kara Hutchison 13,101.25
Teresa Schlichting 12,355.40
Jodie Anderson 11,083.07
Doug Abbas 10,508.50

Another former CFO, John Berg, who was fired from his position in 2017, stated that he had "no comments" about whether or not anyone from the school district or from the Iowa DCI had contacted him about the improper disbursements.

Former Lincoln Intermediate Principal Tom Novotney said that he only knows what he reads in the paper. 

And Mike Penca, whose time as superintendent in Mason City was buttressed by Anita Micich and now superintendent Versteeg, said he has not been contacted by Mason City School District officials regarding the December 2018 audit.

Still working

Those still working in the district that did respond to requests referred back to administrative assistant Sue Dieke -- also on the audit list -- or Superintendent Versteeg. 

Versteeg acknowledged the investigation by DCI and the county attorneys holding office put the district in a holding pattern.

"The board would like to hear the conclusion of the County Attorney's investigation before making any decisions on settling the matter," he said.

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