Members of the board that oversees the Iowa Association of School Boards say they’re outraged and grief-stricken by the scandal that now surrounds the organization. Two audits are being conducted to see if taxpayer dollars were misspent and the group’s executive director has been placed on paid leave after questions were raised about her salary.
Russ Wiesley of Waukee, president of the association’s board of directors, testified Wednesday before the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee. “We are going to work hard to get this fixed,” Wiesley told legislators. “We are going to work hard to regain the trust of our members in the field, and we’re going to work really hard to regain your trust and understanding of our organization.”
Bill Morain of Lamoni, the board’s treasurer, said board members are as dismayed as the rest of the public to learn about the sudden salary increases and inappropriate credit card purchases by top executives. According to Morain, the board of directors was reluctant to micromanage its new executive director.
“Looking back we recognize that we could have exercised greater oversight during the transition between management teams,” he said, reading from prepared remarks. “But none of us could have envisioned that such an appalling level of misconduct was even a remote possibility.”
Legislators have expressed outrage and one even used salty language to describe their disgust with the way the Iowa Association of School Boards had been managed. Morain told legislators he, too, shared their frustration. “Anger because people we trusted with the management of our 64-year-old service organization let us down and erected such a barrier to information that it took months of painful disentanglement to tear down this wall,” Morain said.
According to the board’s recently-hired attorney, executive director Maxine Kilcrease remains on paid leave until they can determine if she can be charged with “moral turpitude.” Some lawmakers have questioned why she’s still drawing a salary, but the attorney says firing Kilcrease prematurely would force the Iowa Association of School Boards to pay her salary for the remainder of her three year contract.
The Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee has voted to seek subpoena power to compel Kilcrease to testify at a committee hearing. The Iowa Association of School board is governed by group of local school board members elected from districts across the state. The non-profit board continues to defend its various for-profit offshoots, saying most were created at the request of local school districts.