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St. Joseph School District Braces For State Audit Report

Sam Zeff

The beleaguered St. Joseph, Mo., School Board met behind closed doors for three hours Monday night to hear from a host of lawyers. None of what members heard was good news.

The board received a report from one lawyer on the process that lead to district CFO Beau Musser being placed on administrative leave last year. At the time, the district accused Musser of sexual misconduct and creating a hostile work environment. A different investigation cleared Musser of any wrongdoing and after seven months of paid leave he returned to work last November.

Soon after Musser returned, the district hired a law firm to see if St. Joseph Superintendent Fred Czerwonka and HR Director Doug Flowers followed proper procedures when they placed him on administrative leave.

District sources who've seen the report say it shows the district acted improperly and the report puts the jobs of some administrators in jeopardy.

Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR
St. Joseph School District Superintendent Fred Czerwonka is on paid administrative leave.

Czerwonka is already on paid administrative leave following the board's review of a draft of a state audit report set to be publicly released on Feb. 17. District COO Rick Hartigan is also on paid administrative leave.

District insiders say the board also has a list of potential interim superintendents to contact if or when Czerwonka exits.

Sources say the board decided to wait until the State Auditor's report is released before considering any additional personnel action. 

State Auditor Thomas Schweich will release his report at a public event at Oak Grove Elementary School, which just opened this year, at 5:00 pm next Tuesday. It's expected the school will be packed with teachers and patrons.

District officials who've seen the draft audit report wouldn't comment on specific recommendations but call the report scathing and say it criticizes some district policies and procedures going back to at least 2000.

However, at the board's public meeting Monday acting Superintendent Jake Long told said that the district intends to follow all recommendations from the auditor.

"We urge you to follow our progress on our website," he told a packed meeting room.

The FBI investigation into the district also moved in a slightly different direction last week.

Several district sources say agents interviewed Wendy Czerwonka, wife of Fred Cerwonka, at her office in district headquarters. Wendy Czerwonka runs the district's programs for homeless students. Agents also interviewed Tammy Flowers, wife of Doug Flowers, at her office in an elementary school. Tammy Flowers is in charge of the district's preschool program.

Both women received controversial promotions and raises last year.

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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