The Mason City School Board last night discussed the release of a special investigation by the state auditor showing more than $2.2 million in improper spending over eight years.

Board president Jodi Draper says with the report now public, it’s up to the county attorney to decide whether criminal charges should be filed.

“We are turning the corner. We do understand the anger. We can empathize with that anger. We understand,” Draper says. “We have turned it over to the authorities and it’s their job now to decide if it was criminal or non-criminal.”

Draper says the special investigation shows the business of the school district under the new superintendent is moving in the right direction.

“You can put your trust in this board,” Draper says. “We worked hard, regardless of what was said in media and not understanding what was going on, we had to do what we had to do because we took our oath very seriously and we wanted to make sure this school district was operated in the best manner and the most transparent manner and doing what we could do for our students, for our teachers, and for the taxpayers.”

Board member Brent Seaton says some comments made about the school board are out of line and people need to remember it was the school board that asked for the special investigation.

“We’ve been referred to in the community as crooks. Some of us have had people come say that to our faces. It’s hurtful,” Seaton says. “It’s defamatory to refer to us as crooks and it is hurtful. It’s hard to respond to that in an unemotional way, especially when we’re doing the best job we can.”

The investigation found funds were not properly disbursed between July of 2009 and August of 2017 while Anita Micich was the district’s superintendent. The special investigation was requested by Draper after an August 2017 report showed the district improperly disbursed just over $109,000 between July 2014 and June 2015.

The new report released on December 28th showed that $1.3 million was improperly disbursed as contract salary to 66 employees, which the report says exceeded the authorized salary calculated using the percentage increases approved by the board. The remaining amount was from various improper benefits disbursed.

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation is conducting a criminal investigation at the request of the Cerro Gordo County Attorney’s office to see if any charges should be filed.

By Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City