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St. Joseph School Board To Review 'Scathing' Audit

Sam Zeff

Officials in the St. Joseph School District have been nervously waiting for months for a report from the Missouri State Auditor.

KCUR has learned that the report is back and the board will discuss it Tuesday in executive session.

The Missouri State Auditor moved a five-member team into district headquarters last Spring after it was revealed that the new St. Joseph school superintendent, Dr. Fred Cerwonka, handed out $5,000 stipends to 54 administrators without seeking board approval.

Since that time the FBI has launched an investigation, a federal grand jury has issued three subpoenas for documents and the district has been sued by its CFO, Beau Musser, for slander and violating Missouri's whistle-blower statute.

Several people have seen the auditor’s 49 page report, which is about twice as long as most school district audits. While those who've seen the audit won’t discuss the content, all say it is scathing.

School district officials expected to receive the report several weeks ago. However, it was delayed after the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education withheld $1.9 million in state aid because of summer school classes the state ruled were ineligible for reimbursement. State sources say the auditor wanted to include St. Joseph's summer school program in the audit. 

It's unclear what, if any, action the board might take after reviewing the audit behind closed doors Tuesday.

The district will have the opportunity to respond to the report before Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich makes it public.

The release of the state audit comes as the district tries to figure out how to convince voters to renew part of its property tax levy which will sunset later this year. The district stands to lose $6.5 million if voters say no. A poll done for the district shows the levy in serious trouble. Were the election held today, 48 percent of St. Joseph voters would say no; 39 percent, yes; 14 percent, undecided.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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