April 01, 2019 10:38 PM
(ABC 6 News) -- By 5-2 margin Monday night, the Mason City School Board approved spending more than $24,000 to compensate employees who were found during an audit to have been underpaid for years.
Eight employees were listed on an underpayment summary board members reviewed at the meeting; of the seven who will receive funds, two will get under $3 while one will get more than $16,000.
In addition to the money for staff, the district will pay the state auditor's office $19,985.87 for costs relating to a special investigation prompted by the audit and $6,101.10 to the neighboring Clear Lake School District for the latter's overpayment as part of a superintendent-sharing agreement. The audit originally found Clear Lake overpaid by $7,370, but further review of multiple cost-sharing initiatives between both districts found Clear Lake owed Mason City $456.98 for transportation costs and $811.92 for building and grounds costs.
In December, the Iowa Auditor of State's office released a report showing 66 staff members were overpaid dating back to 2009 while several others were underpaid. The Cerro Gordo County Attorney's Office and the Department of Criminal Investigation have since been reviewing the case, but as of Monday the investigation is ongoing and the investigation is ongoing.
School board president Jodi Draper, who voted for the back pay, said it was a necessary move to right the wrongs the investigation uncovered.
"By the contract that was written, they were not underpaid; by the (lack of clear) documentation of what the board intended, that's where the underpayment came, so (the staff) did not know," she said. "By their contract, they were paid correctly, but what was documented by board minutes was incorrect or misappropriated."
During Monday's meeting, board members debated whether approving back pay would open the door for other employees to come forward seeking money and whether the district should seek reimbursement from the employees who were overpaid. The board did not make a decision on what to do about the overpayments Monday night.
"For us to go back I think opens up a whole can of worms and you have to live up to your agreement and your agreement was on a piece of paper; it's called a contract," board member Scott Warren said.
"This was clearly an underpayment that was made, and whether the board and I don't want to get into what the previous board's intentions were, these were identified by the state auditor's office. I feel very strongly that we should make them whole," board member Jacob Schweitzer countered.
Draper said once the investigation is complete, the board may revisit whether to pursue the overpayments from staff.
Created: April 01, 2019 10:38 PM
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