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Lawsuit reveals other issues

By Alonzo Weston, St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

May 15--Up to this point, the issue of stipends is largely what has troubled the St. Joseph School District. But Beau Musser, the former district chief financial officer who was placed on administrative leave in March, filed a civil employment discrimination lawsuit Tuesday that cited other problems.

The lawsuit named the school district, superintendent Dr. Fred Czerwonka, administrator Doug Flowers and board member Dennis Snethen as defendants. Not only did the lawsuit allege numerous financial inconsistencies but that the school district also attempted to smear Mr. Musser's character.

Thomas Mickes, the district's attorney, said he will file a paragraph-by-paragraph answer giving the district's position within the next 30 days. He said he feels comfortable the district will be vindicated.

"There's so much rumor and innuendo floating around about this issue, the district will have an opportunity to publicly state its position on all these issues," Mr. Mickes said.

He added that the expense of the lawsuit and attorney fees is covered by the district insurance policy.

"It's not going to be an outlay of cash for the district," he said.

Last July, Mr. Musser said he became aware of salary increases in the form of administrative stipends and pay raises totaling $375,000, some of which were salary increases to family members and friends of certain administrators. His suit maintains that he was repeatedly ignored when he brought the issue to the attention of Dr. Czerwonka, Mr. Flowers and Mr. Snethen.

Mr. Musser was placed on administrative leave March 28 due to sexual harassment allegations.

Some of the other issues reported in the lawsuit include:

The district maintenance office was not able to account for more than 4,000 gallons of fuel used during the 2012-2013 school year.

Dr. Czerwonka hired the Flippen Group without obtaining board approval.

Multiple vehicles and a spa were purchased at St. Joseph Central High School without board approval.

The district maintenance department purchased a vehicle without board approval. The vehicle purchased also exceeded the amount the administration is allowed to spend without board approval.

Dr. Czerwonka also hired APQC, another consultant group, without board approval.

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Short term disability rates were not sufficient to cover district expenses. No action was taken to increase the rates.

Dr. Czerwonka and Mr. Flowers manufactured the sexual harassment allegations in retaliation for his reporting of the illegal raises to family members and friends.

Board member Chris Danford, who pointed out the stipend issue during the March school board meeting, said she was surprised at all the allegations that were in the lawsuit.

"I would say the thing that was most alarming was the detailed statements Mr. Musser had in his lawsuit on how many times that he went to report these violations to our HR (Human Resources) person, Mr. Flowers, and the times he went to seek counsel from (school district attorney) Mr. Briggs and also went to Dr. Czerwonka," she said

Alonzo Weston can be reached

at alonzo.weston@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWeston.

___

(c)2014 St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.)

Visit the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.) at www.newspressnow.com/index.html

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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