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Seeking to Rebuild Trust, Mason City School Board Outlines Steps Taken Since Audit

January 07, 2019 10:41 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- The Mason City Community School Board Monday outlined a number of ways it's improving oversight and accountability into district activities, more than a week after a report showed more than $2.2 million of district funds had been improperly allocated over a period of eight years.

Board president Jodi Draper said meetings are now video recorded and posted on the district YouTube page, the teacher's union president is asked to attend finance committee meetings and staff salaries and raise approvals are being compiled into a spreadsheet given to board members. 

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Another key step is ending the practice of using electronic signatures for certain documents, something State Auditor Mary Mosiman told ABC 6 News last month is "convenient and is appropriate for certain circumstances," but requires oversight measures that were not in place. Draper, the board president, is now required to physically sign all administrative staff contracts.

The measures are a way to help rebuild trust in district leadership from the community, she said.

"I understand your anger, I can empathize with your anger, but we as a school district are starting to turn that corner," she said. "We have put things in place that these things cannot happen again."

As part of the audit process, state officials looked into current Superintendent Dave Versteeg and the district's finance director, unknown to both men who were hired after the period outlined in the audit. Both came out clean and were found to be following Iowa Code.

The board lauded Versteeg's desire for transparency, citing his request for his performance review to be conducted in an open setting instead of behind closed doors as part of a renewed focus on openness.

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation is looking into the case at the request of the Cerro Gordo County Attorney's Office. When reached Monday, both offices declined to provide further details on the status of the investigation. 

As those offices mull any possible criminal charges against former district employees, board member Lorrie Lala said further action is outside the board's control.

"People say 'What are you going to do about it?' Well, we've done our job. we can't do anything else at this point and it's up to the authorities," she said.

The board is also looking into ways they can potentially remedy some employees being underpaid during the audit period, but they have no plans to ask employees who were paid more than authorized but had no say in making that decision to repay the money.

"The people that were in the decision-making processes for Mason City School District at that time and did not carry out board directive should be the ones held responsible if the legal authorities state it was illegal actions [...] not the employees," she said.

KAAL-TV

Copyright 2019 - KAAL-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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