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Missouri Pension Officials Investigate St. Joseph Superintendent

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St. Joseph School Dist.
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Three top officials from the Missouri Public School Retirement System (PSRS) will be at the St. Joseph School District headquarters Friday trying to figure out if former Superintendent Dan Colgan has been receiving inflated retirement benefits.

Colgan retired almost ten years ago but an investigation by Ballotpedia.org uncovered that he quietly steered tens of thousands of dollars in extra compensation his way during his final three years as superintendent.

Officials from PSRS said they were already suspicious of Colgan's compensation following a scathing report from the Missouri State Auditor in February. However, PSRS Executive Director Steve Yoakum says the Ballotpedia investigation sparked the review.

The three officials from PSRS who'll be meeting with St. Joseph district officials are the agency's internal auditor, the staff attorney and the director of employer services. The meeting was scheduled after the district was unable to produce some of Colgan's contracts. 

Colgan used annuities, stipends and inexplicably large car allowances to inflate his earnings. By doing so, the investigation revealed, he was able to boost his retirement benefit by $2,500 a month, or about 22 percent.

Here's just one example of how Colgan increase his pay: Using methods that few in the district or on the Board of Education knew about, Colgan was able to boost his 2002-2003 school year base pay of $108,700 to a staggering $185,892 for a 71 percent increase. That year he received a $25,000 stipend, an $11,000 tax-sheltered annuity and a $14,450 car allowance.

He used similar tactics to inflate his 2001-2002 contract and his 2003-2004 deal with the district.

In Missouri, educators pensions are based on their three highest earning years.

As a result of the review, PSRS could not only reduce Colgan's monthly retirement income but also sue for any overpayments. "If we think there’s an overpayment we will go after it," says Yoakum. "We’re not shy about recovering overpayments."

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Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR
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KCUR
St. Joseph School District school board member Kappy Hodges.

"To me, the PSRS review is a natural progression from the facts uncovered during this whole process," says school board member Kappy Hodges. "I think they should check into other top administrators payroll reports too. If everything is in line, that’s great, but if not it needs correcting as well."

After PSRS is done investigating Colgan's contracts, many in the district expect the contracts and benefits of other top officials to be scrutinized.

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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