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A Fifth Grand Jury Subpoena Lands In The St. Joseph School District

Sam Zeff

The embattled St. Joseph School District remains in the FBI’s cross hairs.  The district says it received another grand jury subpoena this week, the fifth in a little more than a year.

While the district wouldn’t say what the government specifically demanded in the subpoena, interim Superintendent Robert Newhart did say it included information from district employees.

"We will continue to produce any information and will cooperate fully to that investigation by the grand jury and the FBI," Newhart says.

Previous subpoenas, according to sources, wanted documents related to compensation, expense accounts and outside contracts.

This new subpoena comes on the heels of news that an IRS audit of the beleaguered district will take a year to complete. Initially, the district said the audit would take four days.

Newhart, who has been on the job about eight weeks, says he's pretty sure the IRS will uncover some problems albeit minor ones. "I think there will be findings, yes. How much and what the dollar value is I have no clue right now but I definitely think there's going to be findings."

Newhart also says the district has cut 26 jobs through attrition saving the district $750,000. Twelve of those position were certified teachers and 14 came out of operations.

One of those operations jobs belonged to Mark Colgan, the son of former superintendent and school board president Dan Colgan. Mark Colgan was the district's warehouse supervisor even though his office was in a building two miles away.

He was given a controversial promotion and $15,000 raise two years ago. A report from the Missouri State Auditor singled out Mark Colgan's promotion saying it "was not supported by documentation detailing the additional job responsibilities" and the position required a master's degree. Colgan does not have one.

The fact that Dan Colgan's son had such a high paying job with the district was a sore spot for many teachers and some board members.

According to minutes from the board's executive session the decision to eliminate Mark Colgan's job was not unanimous. Board members Dennis Snethen and Martin Rucker voted no. Both are long time allies of Dan Colgan.

The job cuts are necessary because St. Joseph will take in $6.3 million dollars less this year because part of its property tax levy sunset.

Because of all its troubles, the district decided not to put that to a vote this year.

Newhart says the district will try to avoid layoffs but he wouldn’t rule them out. He says a revised budget will be presented to the school board Sept. 28.

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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