Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Fox C-6's March 2018 Resolution Agreement and District Wide Compliance Review Letter

The other day I commented on Facebook about the ED OCR Resolution Agreement that Dr. Wipke signed in March 2018. The Resolution Agreement was signed to close the March 2010 District Wide Compliance Review. Mr. Brazeal responded to my comment with the following:
“Yes, it is true that Dr. Wipke, Superintendent, signed a Resolution Agreement as presented by OCR in March 2018. This is standard procedure in closing out a review. However, contrary to what you allege, there were no "findings" showing any violations of federal law. Hence, it is no surprise the news media didn't publish this non-story. Thus, it is not responsible to write "just think how many kids were denied 504 plans" when OCR has made no such finding, despite years of examination.”
I responded to Mr. Brazeal's comment and documented some of the many things that didn’t make it into the March 2018 District Wide Compliance Review letter nor the Resolution Agreement.

The "years of examination" that it took to complete the District Wide Compliance Review is quite a story in itself. It makes you question as to why it would take nearly a decade to complete a District Wide Compliance Review considering that ED OCR’s mission statement is:

The mission of the Office for Civil Rights is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.”

In addition, I noted the fact that there were students who were denied Section 504 plans in the district between 2008 and 2014. Ours was one of them. There were others who were originally denied Section 504 plans by the district. Some of those parents contacted me. However, they were eventually provided a 504 plans after the district changed law firms, ousted the former superintendent and demoted the Section 504 coordinator for the district.

ED OCR was aware of them but did not document that fact in the District Wide Compliance Review letter or Resolution Agreement. They also didn't document the monitoring letters that they sent the district between 2009 and 2013. Those monitoring letters did not reflect well on the district as they noted the numerous times that the district failed to meet the terms of the May 2009 Resolution Agreement.

However, there was also more than a two year lapse in monitoring the district. ED OCR didn't issue any monitoring letters between December 2009 and March 2012. We asked ED OCR numerous times during that two year gap as to when they planned to send new monitoring letters to the district. We also asked as to how many years does it take before they actually enforce the agreement rather than changing the deadlines of the agreement when the district didn't meet them.
One of the bullet points in the March 16, 2018 District Wide Compliance Review letter stated that:

“Since the time OCR opened this compliance review in 2010, the District has worked to improve its process for identifying and evaluating students who may be eligible for Section 504 services and protections.”


That statement from the 2018 District Wide Compliance Review letter doesn't appear to accurately reflect the responses from the district. The statement ignores the fact that the district’s legal counsel refused to update school documents and policies for nearly 4 years as documented in the ED OCR monitoring letters sent to the district between 2009 and 2013. My July 2013 article has links to copies of those monitoring letters as well as the letters sent to ED OCR from the district’s legal counsel informing ED OCR why they refused to make changes to district policies and documentation that they had agreed to update.


According to the legal bills I obtained from the district via Sunshine Request in 2015 covering May 2010 through June 2014, the district’s legal counsel reviewed my July 2013 article. The legal bills also documented the many times that Fox's legal counsel helped the district over the years respond to my Public Comments, emails and Sunshine Requests. It also noted the "press release" that it helped the district with after our Due Process Hearing with the district.

The news article ("press release") appeared in the Post Dispatch in August 2010. Comments posted to the article contained many bullying and threatening comments directed at us for pursuing a Section 504 plan. Fox's former law firm used the media in many of their cases to bully parents. I followed several of their cases across the state over the years and searched for the articles related to the cases. Similar comments were posted on those articles as well that were directed at the families who pursued Section 504 plans for their children.

If it hadn’t been for my constant follow up with ED OCR over the years checking on the progress of the May 2010 District Wide Compliance Review, the Compliance Review probably would have never been completed or closed.

It also helped that I found a video on a law firm website in August 2008 of an attorney at the 2005 Missouri School Law Seminar telling educators in our state that they should not provide students with food allergies a Section 504 plan even though they may qualify for one.

I knew the family who the attorney was referring to in the video because an advocate who helped us had also helped the family in Webb City who had their child’s 504 plan removed as well. I contacted them about the video and they confirmed that the attorney was referring to their case.

I forwarded a link to that video to both ED OCR and USDA OCR because I knew that it wasn't right for attorneys to tell school districts to say no to a 504 plan if the student was qualified for one. Providing that video to the USDA OCR office led to statewide training by USDA OCR for all Missouri Food Nutrition Directors. However, Fox did not attend that training.
My July 2013 article documented the fact that I spoke at the June 2013 Fox C-6 school board meeting during Public Comments and asked the school board about the March 2010 District Wide Compliance Review and the May 2009 Resolution Agreement.

My Public Comments at the June 2013 school board meeting were documented in the board meeting minutes as, “discussed Board policies and regulations”. School board meeting minutes weren't well documented for a reason and that's why I had asked for years for school board meetings to be audio or video recorded.
July 2013 Article covering the June 2013 Board Meeting

June 25, 2013 Fox C-6 Board Meeting Minutes


My response to Mr. Brazeal also pointed out the numerous times I had contacted ED OCR for 9 years asking them when they planned to complete the March 2010 District Wide Compliance Review or enforce the May 2009 Resolution Agreement. I was informed repeatedly by ED OCR that they are working on it and that they hope to get it completed soon or in the next several months.


So, the real “story” is, why did it take ED OCR nearly a decade to enforce the May 2009 Resolution Agreement that the district didn’t fulfill? The district agreed to update board policies and 504 manuals, etc. in 2009. That didn’t happen. The district was sent numerous monitoring letters documenting that fact. So, now in March 2018 the district signed a new Resolution Agreement which closed the District Wide Compliance Review before it was completed and gives the district another window of several years to complete and fulfill that agreement while being “monitored” by ED OCR.


The March 2018 Resolution Agreement is a 15 page letter that outlines in detail with deadlines the specific items that the district has agreed to do to resolve the May 2010 District Wide Compliance Review.

The Resolution Agreement has 18 detailed action items that the district is required to complete. It also has detailed Reporting Requirements with deadlines for many of those action items similar to the May 2009 Resolution Agreement.


March 8, 2018 ED OCR Resolution Agreement signed by Dr. Wipke


One of the actions the district was required to do was to send out notices, “By September 17, 2018, the District will send a notice to the parent(s)/legal guardian(s)4 of each District student through the U.S. Postal Service (U.S. mail), or by email, explaining the District’s obligation to conduct a Section 504 evaluation of any student who, because of disability, needs or is believed to need special education or related services.to send out notices to everyone in the district.”


The district completed that action item last fall.
The end of the March 8, 2018 Resolution Agreement contains the following 3 paragraphs that outlines that OCR will be monitoring the agreement and that OCR may initiate administrative enforcement or judicial proceedings to enforce the specific terms of the agreement. However, similar language was also included in the May 2009 Resolution Agreement as well.


The District understands that OCR will not close the monitoring of this Agreement until OCR determines that the District has fulfilled the terms of this Agreement and is in compliance with: the regulation implementing Section 504 at 34 C.F.R. §§ 104.3(j), and 104.35 through 104.37; and the regulation implementing Title II at 28 C.F.R. §§ 35.104 and 35.130, which were at issue in this case.


The District understands that by signing this Agreement, it agrees to provide data and other information in a timely manner in accordance with the reporting requirements of this Agreement and that all actions taken to comply with the requirements of the Agreement are subject to OCR’s review and approval. Further, the District understands that during the monitoring of this Agreement, if necessary, OCR may visit the District, interview staff and students, and request such additional reports or data as are necessary for OCR to determine whether the District has fulfilled the terms of this Agreement and is in compliance with: the regulation implementing Section 504 at 34 C.F.R. §§ 104.3(j), 104.35 through 104.37; and the regulation implementing Title II at 28 C.F.R. §§ 35.104 and 35.130, which were at issue in this case.

The District understands and acknowledges that OCR may initiate administrative enforcement or judicial proceedings, including to enforce the specific terms and obligations of this Agreement. Before initiating administrative enforcement (34 C.F.R. §§ 100.9, 100.10) or judicial proceedings, including to enforce this Agreement, OCR shall give the District written notice of the alleged breach and sixty (60) calendar days to cure the alleged breach.


The March 16, 2018 District Wide Compliance Review Letter to Fox C-6 is an 11 page letter which details some of the things discovered during their interviews with the district during the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years.


March 16, 2018 ED OCR District Wide Compliance Review Letter to Fox C-6


The March 16, 2018 District Wide Compliance Review Letter contains the following paragraph:


Recipients of federal funds are prohibited from intimidating, threatening, coercing, or discriminating against any individual for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege secured by federal civil rights law. Complaints alleging such retaliation may be filed with OCR. Under the Freedom of Information Act, it may be necessary to release this document and related correspondence and records upon request. In the event that OCR receives such a request, it will seek to protect, to the extent provided by law, personally identifiable information that could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy if released.

I have pointed the fact that retaliation or bullying is a violation of Section 504 law in numerous articles and to our school board over the years. This is why it was such an important fact when it was discovered that online defamatory posts directed at me were traced to the homes of our former superintendent, former assistant superintendent (who was demoted to elementary principal) and the home of a former assistant principal.


We filed retaliation complaints with ED OCR, however, nothing became of them. It makes you wonder what ED OCR considers retaliation after reading the numerous comments that were posted online and forwarded to ED OCR and USDA OCR.


ED OCR's Lack of Enforcement
The lack of enforcement by ED OCR is a story in itself. I’ve heard the same story from parents around the country who have experienced the same thing in their school districts. When it takes nearly a decade for ED OCR to do “vigorous enforcement” of the law, you quickly learn that ED OCR must be using a different definition of the word “vigorous” than everyone else.


Plus, the fact that ED OCR did not include in their March 16, 2018 District Wide Compliance Review letter any references to the denials of Section 504 plans or when Section 504 plans were taken away from students between August 2008 and June 2014 even though ED OCR was aware of those facts from district documentation and Due Process Hearings. I asked the current Director of the Kansas City ED OCR office why nothing was noted in the District Wide Compliance Review letter from the 2008 to 2014 school years. I did not get a response to that question.

I also noted in my response to Mr. Brazeal that USDA OCR had issued findings that found Fox and Missouri DESE non-compliant with Section 504. That non-compliance letter was issued in August 2011. This was noted in my July 2013 article along with a reference to a copy of the non-compliance letter.

Perhaps items weren’t documented in the March 16, 2018 District Wide Compliance Review letter for the 2008 through June 2014 time frame because things changed in the district in June 2014. That’s when the district switched law firms, our superintendent was ousted and the district switched Section 504 Coordinators.


Following the ouster of the district’s law firm, in August 2014, ED OCR came and did an Early Complaint Resolution which resulted in the reinstatement of a Section 504 plan that had been removed in September 2008. It took nearly 6 years to reinstate a 504 plan that had been removed. That’s the reason why I have been documenting this process and the numerous things that occurred in our school district during that time.

The 504 issues going on in our district is what led to my uncovering of other issues in the district involving our former superintendent. People I’ve told about this over the years could not believe what they were hearing. That’s why I have tried to be thorough in my documenting of it. You get the feeling that the district wants to sweep all of this under the rug and keep it hidden from the public.


My July 2013 article, documented how slow ED OCR was at following up and enforcing the May 2009 Resolution Agreement signed by Dan Baker, Fox’s former Section 504 Coordinator. (Current Fox C-6 school board member Vicki Hanson was the Section 504 Coordinator prior to Dan Baker taking over the job from Mrs. Hanson when she retired in 2008.)


Another article I wrote in June 2013 pointed out some information sent to me by a parent in the Lee’s Summit School District who had read some of my articles. One thing I didn’t note in that article back then was the fact that the Lee’s Summit Superintendent was one of the highest paid superintendents in the state and the fact that Fox’s former superintendent DIanne Critchlow was the 4th highest paid superintendent in the state at the time. Critchlow eventually became the 2nd highest paid superintendent in the state when she “retired” in 2014 with a salary of $267,468. The Lee’s Summit superintendent was ousted in May 2016 and was the highest paid superintendent in the state with a compensation package worth $397,000.

March 2016 Kansas CIty Star Article about Lee’s Summit Superintendent




Below is a link to the June 2013 which pointed out some of my concerns as to why it was taking the Kansas City ED OCR so long to perform their “vigorous enforcement” of Section 504 law.


June 2013 Article - Stark Similarities Between Fox C-6 and Lee's Summit R-7 School Districts!



Saturday, July 15, 2017

Was Misinformation Intended to Fool the Community? Absolutely!

I never knew that speaking at the December 14, 2010 Fox C-6 school board meeting would lead to a complete turnover of Central Office administrators just a few years later. The article below was published in the Arnold-Imperial Leader the week after I spoke at the school board meeting.

Former Fox C-6 superintendent Dianne Brown (Critchlow), former assistant superintendent Todd Scott (now Seckman High School principal) and former Director of the Bridges program, Jamie Critchlow were interviewed for the article. The article covered the hiring of Jamie Critchlow as the new head football coach for Seckman High School. It also mentioned the hiring of Jamie Critchlow as a Behavior Intervention Support Team (BIST) Teacher in August 2009 and his subsequent promotion a few months later in November 2009 to the Director of the at-risk Bridges program.

The promotion from BIST teacher to Director increased Jamie Critchlow’s salary from $45,870 (per May 2009 board meeting packet Certified hires list) to $98,005 (as reported in the article). That salary increase was given without having a certificate in Administration. That’s why I went and spoke to the Fox C-6 school board.

The article stated that Jamie Critchlow could have been making $2,000 more than the $98,005 salary that he was earning as the At-Risk Director of the Bridges program because Fox C-6 administrators had given back their raises for the 2010-2011 school year.

According to the article, Todd Scott said that, “Critchlow’s salary is the same this year as last.” and that, “Critchlow’s salary is the same amount the previous at-risk director, Kolin Peterson, earned.”

I’m not quite sure how Jamie Critchlow’s salary of $98,005, “is the same amount the previous at-risk director, Kolin Peterson, earned”. After reviewing the following data from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), it appears that Mr. Critchlow’s salary was more than 2.5 times higher than the previous at-risk director’s salary.

Jamie Critchlow began working for the district in the 2009-2010 school year. Below are the salary amounts as reported to Missouri DESE by Fox for Mr. Critchlow:
2010 -   $98,589
2011 - $101,884
2012 - $107,813
2013 - $116,103
2014 - $124,079

Kolin Peterson began working for the district in the 2006-2007 school year. Below are the salary amounts as reported to Missouri DESE for Mr. Peterson:
2007 - $32,096
2008 - $36,567
2009 - $37,744
2010 - $38,552
2011 - $39,323

Dianne Brown (Critchlow) mentioned the district’s "stringent hiring practices" in the article.

In 2012, the district's "stringent hiring practices" made headlines while Dianne (Brown) Critchlow was still superintendent. That’s when Fox hired Kelly Nash as the district’s Nutrition Director even though she didn’t have a college degree or certification for the job. Kelly Nash is the daughter-in-law of former Fox C-6 school board president, Linda Nash. In January 2015, Kelly Nash’s employment was terminated by the district and she walked away with a $20,000 settlement.

Assistant superintendent Todd Scott talked about the credentials in the article that I had asked about at the December 14, 2010 board meeting. He said, "the district checks with DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) when hiring a certified employee, such as a teacher or administrator, to make sure the person has the proper credentials."

Missouri DESE requires the completion of a master's degree or higher in educational administration in order to obtain an Initial Administrator Certificate. Mr. Critchlow had a master's degree in Art which does not meet DESE's requirements for obtaining an Initial Administrator Certificate.

If the district had checked Mr. Critchlow's credentials with Missouri DESE like I had done back then, they would have known that Mr. Critchlow did not have a Principal/Administrator certificate when he was promoted to an "administrator" position in November 2009. Mr. Critchlow didn’t earn a Principal/Administrator certificate until May 27, 2014 but was paid a principal's salary for nearly 5 years without having the credentials required to justify the salary.

Mr. Critchlow was fired less than a month after obtaining his Principal/Administrator certificate.

In 2009, Fox’s school board policy “0340 - Code of Ethics” contained the following statement, “Employ only such qualified employees as are properly recommended by the Superintendent of schools.” That’s an important statement. Former superintendent Dianne Brown (Critchlow) was responsible for properly recommending only those employees who are qualified for the job.

It wasn’t until the release of the May 2016 Missouri State Auditor’s report that the public learned that Mr. Critchlow’s promotion was not approved by the school board. I recently obtained copies of the Contract Modifications requests that were presented to the Fox C-6 school board for the 2009-2010 school year by Dianne Brown (Critchlow) for approval. Mr. Critchlow’s name didn’t appear on any of those requests. His name only appeared on the May 2009 list of Certified Hires from the 2008-2009 school board meeting packets.

Dianne Critchlow improperly promoted and compensated her husband (before they were married) to a position/salary schedule that he was not qualified or certified for.

The difference between a teacher’s salary with a master’s degree and what Mr. Critchlow earned while working for the district was more than $300,000 and should be repaid to the district.


Jag Coach had DWI in Texas (PDF)
December 23, 2010


Saturday, July 8, 2017

June 1, 2017 - Arnold-Imperial Leader Column - Mum Should Not Be the Word for Elected Officials

Below is a post I made on the Fox C-6 Watchdogs Facebook page on June 7, 2017.


June 7, 2017 - Fox C-6 Watchdogs Facebook Post
The past 9 years have been like putting together a huge jigsaw puzzle while having to find all of the pieces on an Ultra-Marathon length Orienteering Course.

At the same time, it required writing a research paper to document all of the findings in order to come up with solutions for getting around the problems or obstacles that were tossed out along the way. Mind mapping tools are very helpful when assembling and tracking all of the pieces of the puzzle.

The end goal to all of the documenting is to ensure that the school district recovers the funds for our students and our community that were misused or improperly compensated as documented in the 2016 State Auditor's report.

Lack of Transparency During Critchlow's Tenure
Probably the biggest problem to overcome over the past 8 years was trying to get access to information that should have been available to the public all along, like the board packets. Having information like the board packets which included bill payments would have allowed the community to be more involved with school district decisions and more knowledgeable as to how their taxpayer dollars were being spent.

The June 1, 2017 Arnold-Imperial Leader's Editor Opinions page had an article about some of the issues that some of our local school boards have faced in recent times. It was a very good article and hit the nail on the head as to what happens when school boards are "mum" on issues or don't communicate very well with the community. It's too bad this article wasn't written about 7 or 8 years ago.

One of the puzzle pieces that I was reminded of while reading the Arnold-Imperial Leader Opinions article can be found in former Fox C-6 superintendent Dianne Critchlow's 2014 Settlement and Release Agreement that I obtained via a July 31, 2014 Sunshine Request.


There's a good chance that the community may find a lot more pieces to the puzzle if someone in the community was able to get a copy of the 3,800+ page investigation report from the St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney's office.

Since the St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney's office wants to charge more than $200 for a copy of the report, there's a good chance that it contains a few more pieces to the puzzle.

Below is a link to Peggy Bess's June 1, 2017 Arnold-Imperial Leader column titled, "Mum should not be the word for elected officials":

Have you asked Fox C-6's Board of Educations what their plans are to recover Public Funds?

I've been a bit behind on posting some of the items that I've posted on the Fox C-6 Watchdogs Facebook page.

On June 5, 2017, I wrote the following post on Facebook for the community. I wrote it because it had been more than a year since the Missouri State Auditor publicly released their audit findings of the Fox C-6 School District. And after a year, there still hasn't been any further recovery of public fund.

On June 2, 2016, the LEADER's Patrick Martin presented some really good questions after the release of the 2016 Missouri Auditor's report in his Editor's Opinion article below: The title of his article was "Latest Taxpayer Horror Movie Unfolds within Fox Audit".




Below is what I originally posted on Facebook on June 5, 2017 along with a few additional details I've added regarding Dianne Critchlow's July 2014 Settlement and Release Agreement.

From Fox C-6 Watchdogs Facebook Post - June 5, 2017:

Has anyone else asked our school board or superintendent what the district plans to do about recovering the funds that were identified in the May 2016 Missouri State Auditor's report?

Last week I met with Dr. Wipke and Fox's school board president to discuss what the district planned to do about recovering the taxpayer dollars that were identified in the 2016 State Auditor's report.

If you think pursuing recovery of funds is important to our students and our taxpayers, I highly recommend contacting our school board members.

Currently, it doesn't appear that the district believes it can recover the funds for a variety of reasons.

Some of those reasons are:
  • There was never an admission of wrongdoing.
  • It doesn't appear that there was criminal intent to misuse taxpayer funds.
  • No criminal charges were filed by the prosecuting attorneys.
  • Since no criminal charges were filed, it makes it difficult to claim a "criminal loss" with the school district's insurance company.
  • The district could spend more money in legal fees than they recover.
  • Everything was approved by the board or signed off by the board president.
  • People's memories of what occurred may have faded.
  • Bringing up the past brings negative energy to the district.

You can find a lot of cases across the country where school districts recovered funds for their students and taxpayers after scathing audits. Typically school districts filed civil suits to recover the funds. In other cases, the school district's Errors and Omissions Insurance covered the loss and the insurance company then pursued the funds from the individuals that misused them.

Reading through years of articles, it's easy to see that a few people in the district didn't want the public to know what was going on.

As far as school board approval goes, at the June 25, 2013 school board meeting, the district submitted their request to the board to approve credit card usage according to school board policies. The district touted to the board that they now had "tighter controls" over their credit card usage.

So, who's to blame for the individuals like Dianne Critchlow for not following school board policies?

Was it the school board's fault that Critchlow did not follow school district policy when she used her school district credit card to purchase personal items and meals?

Critchlow had a very good reason as to why she didn't want me to get copies of the school district credit card statements in February 2014. You can also figure out why the district didn't provide me copies of the credit card statements for nearly 6 months after my original request.



I was also wondering if former superintendent Dianne Critchlow's 2014 Settlement and Release Agreement has been keeping the district from pursuing misused funds. I was provided the separation agreements from a Sunshine Request made in July 2014 and posted it on August 5, 2014. There were two very notable items in the separation agreement.

The first notable item that was written into the separation agreement was the fact that the district allowed Critchlow to file a claim using the school district's insurance policy that was paid for with public funds for "defense and indemnification”. This would most likely pay for any legal fees as well. It appears in paragraph 3(e) of her Settlement and Release Agreement as follows:

“Critchlow does not waive and hereby expressly reserves her rights and abilities, if any, to file a claim for defense and indemnification under any policy of insurance that may apply in any case, including but not limited to any policy of insurance purchased or retained by the District.”
Perhaps this part of the Settlement and Release Agreement is why the district hasn't filed a claim with the district's insurance carrier.

There’s also another sentence in her Settlement and Release Agreement that states that she cannot file a lawsuit against the district:

“Critchlow understands that the provisions of this Paragraph and Paragraph 3 mean that she cannot file a lawsuit against the District.”

You can read about Dianne Critchlow's July 2014 Release and Separation Agreement and read a copy of the agreement as well as view some of the district's Credit Card Statements I finally received in 2014 in the following article I wrote on August 5, 2014:



A year ago on June 2, 2016, the LEADER's Patrick Martin presented some really good questions after the release of the 2016 Missouri Auditor's report in his Editor's Opinion article below: The title of his article was "Latest Taxpayer Horror Movie Unfolds within Fox Audit".


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Fox C-6 Auditee's Response Highlights from the May 2016 Missouri State Auditor's Report

It's been nearly a year since the scathing results of the Fox C-6 School District audit by Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway were released to the public.

So far, no criminal charges have been filed and it appears that no taxpayer dollars have been recovered since the audit was released on May 25, 2016.

The Fox C-6 School District website has a webpage dedicated to the 2016 Missouri State Audit. It contains a link to the 2016 Missouri State Audit and a short timeline of what's happened since a state audit was requested in August 2014.

The webpage includes a link to a letter from Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Forrest Wegge to the school board on June 2, 2016 informing the school board that he requested a "complete criminal investigation into the various allegations contained within said audit".

The webpage also includes a link to Forrest Wegge's July 14, 2016 press release stating that he was referring the investigation to the United States Attorney's Office for further investigation.

You can view the district's State Audit webpage here:
https://www.fox.k12.mo.us/about_us/state_audit


Auditee Responses
The State Audit Report includes Auditee's Responses from the Fox C-6 Board of Education and District Administration in response to the State Auditor's Recommendations.

Below are only a few highlights from the District's Auditee's Responses as found in the 2016 State Auditor's report:


"The Fox C-6 Board of Education and District Administration agree with this recommendation. Implementation of new procedures to accurately determine the rate of compensation for the Superintendent and properly adopt a Superintendent contract were in place by December 2014. These new procedures comply with the recommendation. 
The audit findings are critical of the $260,598 salary paid to Dianne Critchlow and other administrators during 2013-2014, including that Critchlow's salary was substantial when compared to Superintendents of other districts and was not properly documented. By comparison, the 2015-2016 salary for Dr. Jim Wipke of $175,000 is competitive for a district the size and complexity of Fox C-6 Schools and is properly documented.
The District believes that most of the irregularities regarding former Superintendent Dianne Critchlow's contracts identified by the audit findings resulted primarily from acts of Dianne Critchlow and acts or omissions of persons holding the post of Chief Financial Officer, namely James Berblinger, or his successor Mark McCutchen. Fox C-6 Board of Education expects staff to properly implement all Board decisions. The Board of Education disapproves both the acts or omissions that (1) increased Critchlow's compensation without Board action and (2) compensated Dianne Critchlow greater than provided within her approved contracts Critchlow, Berblinger and McCutchen are no longer employed by Fox C-6 Schools.
The Board of Education intends to consider the following actions:
(1) seek recovery of the unauthorized compensation paid to Dianne Critchlow, (2) notify the Public School Retirement System (PSRS) about the unauthorized compensation to determine whether correction or forfeiture of pension benefits being paid to Dianne Critchlow is warranted, and (3) submit the record of unauthorized compensation to the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office to determine whether prosecution is warranted. 
The District is committed to maintaining full compliance with the recommendation."

...

"As teaching jobs continue to be scarce, and as Fox C-6 budgets continue to be strained, the school board has an even greater responsibility to make sure the most highly qualified people land the few jobs available. School board members and the Superintendent doing the hiring have a fiduciary responsibility to the community to hire the best talent for the money. Under these circumstances, it is completely justified for the District to maintain its new hiring practices and strong anti-nepotism policy, which exceeds the provisions of the Missouri Constitution.
The audit criticizes the District for failing to follow proper protocols in the hiring process and in sections 1.3 and 1.4 focuses on unauthorized and unwarranted job promotions by the former superintendent, Dianne Critchlow, of her husband Jamie Critchlow. These job promotions and rates of compensation were without Board approval according to the audit. The reported findings indicate $88,751 in excess compensation paid to Jamie Critchlow. After fringe costs are added, the cost to the District rises to approximately $102,900.
The Board of Education disapproves of both (1) Dianne Critchlow's apparent disregard of Board procedures and authority; and (2) enrichment of Dianne Critchlow's husband with District financial resources. Jamie Critchlow and Dianne Critchlow are no longer employed by Fox C-6 Schools.
The Board of Education intends to consider the following actions:
(1) seek recovery of the unauthorized compensation paid to Jamie Critchlow, (2) notify the PSRS about the unauthorized compensation to determine whether correction of pension benefits relating to Jamie Critchlow is warranted, and (3) submit the record of unauthorized compensation to the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office to determine whether prosecution is warranted."
...

"The audit criticizes the District for failing to follow proper procedures and focuses on unwarranted job promotions for Mark McCutchen, Jamie Critchlow, and others. These job promotions were not approved by the Board and were often accompanied by unauthorized increased rates of compensation. The reported findings indicate $49,162 in excess compensation paid to Mark McCutchen. After fringe costs are added, the cost to the District rises to approximately $57,000. The Board of Education disapproves of: (1) Dianne Critchlow's apparent disregard for Board authority and (2) acts that compensated Mark McCutchen greater than provided within his contracts. Critchlow and McCutchen are no longer employed by Fox C-6 Schools.

The Board of Education intends to consider the following actions:(1) seek recovery of the unauthorized compensation paid to Mark McCutchen, (2) notify the PSRS about the unauthorized compensation to determine whether correction or forfeiture of pension benefits relating to Mark McCutchen is warranted, and (3) submit the record of unauthorized compensation to the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office to determine whether prosecution is warranted.

Subject to the clarifications presented, the District is committed to full compliance with the recommendation."
...

"The audit findings indicate charges made to credit cards held by former Superintendent Dianne Critchlow and her administrative assistant appear to be questionable or improper use of District financial. The Board of Education disapproves of these questionable and improper purchases totaling $96,743 as a misuse of taxpayer funds. This constitutes a violation of the public trust. The District has previously demanded repayment from Dianne Critchlow for many questionable and improper credit card charge that constitute personal purposes, excessive expenditures, gifts of public property, and payments in violation of Missouri laws relating to conflicts of interest. Dianne Critchlow has failed to respond to District demands for repayment.

The Board of Education intends to consider the following actions:(1) seek recovery of the unauthorized improper and/or questionable charges made to credit cards assigned to Dianne Critchlow and her administrative assistant, (2) submit the record of improper and/or questionable credit card charges to the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office to determine whether prosecution is warranted, and (3) in the event of a prosecution, notify the Public School Retirement System (PSRS), and/or the Public Educational Employees Retirement System (PEERS) about the potential need for correction or forfeiture of pension benefits."

...

"Dianne Critchlow and Jamie Critchlow appeared to have used taxpayer money for purposes that did not benefit the school district; made expenditures that were not properly documented, or constituted excessive expenditures, or gifts of public property; or in violation of Missouri laws relating to conflicts of interest. The Board of Education disapproves of any and all misuse of taxpayer funds.

The District is committed to full compliance with the recommendation."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

What Was In The Jefferson County Sheriff's Report Related to the Fox C-6 Audit?

Is anyone interested in reading the report prepared by Jefferson County Sheriff's Office related to the findings of the May 2016 Missouri State Auditor's report?

Obtaining a copy of that report has proven to be a bit of a challenge.

I thought the community might find it interesting as to what it takes to obtain copies of public records such as the Jefferson County Sheriff's Report. My initial requests were made at the end of January, 2017 with exchanges going through mid February, 2017.

Probably the most interesting thing you may discover in reading this article, is the fact that Jefferson County informed me that they no longer have a copy of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office report. The reactions I receive when I tell people about the county's response regarding my Sunshine Law requests is priceless.

I made a Sunshine Law request to the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office asking for a copy of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office report as well as a copy of the FBI report. My Sunshine Law requests to both the Jefferson County and St. Charles County offices asked that the fees be waived for the reports per Missouri Sunshine Law, since these reports were of public interest.

Since the reports generated during the investigation of the 2016 Missouri State Auditor's findings were created with taxpayer dollars, you may find it interesting that my request to waive fees for the reports were denied. Charging to obtain copies of reports is a very simple way to keep the public from obtaining the information.

Wanting to charge me for the reports reminds me of the time when Fox C-6 asked me to pay $170 for copies of the credit card statements that should have been included in the school board meeting packets each month.

I also wonder why the local news media hasn't filed any Sunshine Law requests for these reports since the reports may help the community understand why no charges were filed after the release of the May 2016 Missouri State Auditor's report.

JEFFERSON COUNTY FIRST RESPONSE
From my initial Sunshine Law request I received the following response:

"I have received your Sunshine Law request in email format from our Prosecuting Attorney, Forrest Wegge.

Please consider this electronic e-mail our initial 3-day response as required under law to your Sunshine Law request dated February 6, 2017.

It is my understanding that the file your are requesting information from is not currently in the possession of Mr. Wegge, or his office here in Hillsboro, Missouri.

As you are probably aware, a special prosecutor was appointed to this case. I believe this case file is still in that individual's possession.

After I have made contact with the special prosecutor, I will further advise you regarding the anticipated time it will take to complete production as well as the costs or other issues prior to proceeding any further as you requested.

Jefferson County will not waive fees/costs in answering this request. Please be advised that there may be Federal Law protections that prohibit Jefferson County from disclosing any requested "FBI" reports.

I expect to have further response to you within the next 7 to 10 days."


JEFFERSON COUNTY SECOND RESPONSE
After making a Sunshine Law request to the St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney's Office I received the following response from a Jefferson County counselor:

"It has come to my attention, from speaking with an assistant county counselor of St. Charles County, that you have made a similar Sunshine Law request with the Prosecutor's Office of St. Charles County, Missouri.

I have been informed that they have provided you documents and responses to your requests for files that may be protected or be work product. 

I have reached out to the Jefferson County Prosecutor's Office and have been informed that it does not have any of the requested documentation that your are requesting in your Sunshine Law request - the entire file is in the possession of the St. Charles Prosecutor's Office. 

Therefore, Jefferson County does not have any documents to provide you pursuant to your Sunshine Law Request."

ST. CHARLES COUNTY RESPONSE
I also submitted a Sunshine Request to the St. Charles Prosecuting Attorney's Office. The Public Information Officer from the St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney's Office sent me the following response:

"Please be advised that the Federal Bureau of Investigation report, and pages from that report which are contained in the Jefferson County Sheriff’s report, are exempt from disclosure by Section 610.021(14), RSMo (Supp. 2014) (exempting “records which are protected from disclosure by law”), in conjunction with the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. Section 552(b)(7)(C). Furthermore, your request for disclosure of records which are the property of the Federal Bureau of Investigation must be directed to the United States Department of Justice pursuant to 28 C.F.R. Part 16, Subpart B, Sections 16.21, et seq.
  
Additionally, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s report contains social security numbers which are exempt from disclosure pursuant to Section 610.035, RSMo (2000). The social security numbers will therefore have to be redacted from the report. We estimate the staff time to redact social security numbers at 2 hours at $38.04 per hour.
  
We also estimate that the non-exempt documents will total approximately 3,850 pages, which can be provided at $0.10 per page plus staff time of 4 hours at $38.04 per hour, for a total of $537.16.

We presume, however, that like your previous request, you desire electronic copies of these documents. We can provide the non-exempt documents on CD-DVD at a cost of $10.00 for the medium as well as estimated staff time of 4 hours to transfer the documents to the medium at a cost of $38.04 per hour for a total of $162.16. 

We require payment of estimated costs prior to commencement of document copying. Please specify whether you desire paper copies at an estimated cost of $613.24 or electronic copies and the appropriate medium at an estimated cost of $238.24, and remit the corresponding amount to this Office. If actual costs exceed the estimate we shall invoice you for the difference. Conversely if actual costs are below the estimate we shall refund the difference."

Charging for reports that the public might be interested in reviewing is certainly a good way to keep those reports out of the public's view. It's similar to what I ran up against in February 2014 when I requested copies of the credit card statements from Fox C-6.

Below are links to a couple of articles I wrote in August 2014. The first article documented what Fox's school district policy was at the time when former superintendent Dianne Critchlow and others were using school district credit cards to make purchases.

The second article documented why it took so long to obtain the school district credit card statements to review after I had asked the Fox C-6 School Board if they had been receiving and reviewing the credit card statements in their board packets each month.


Below is the school district policy that was in place when former superintendent Critchlow and others were using school district credit cards as documented in the article above.
Policy 3125 – Credit Cards (05/97) 
School district credit cards will only be issued to employees upon the approval of the Board of Education. Use of the credit card will be limited to the purchase of instructional materials, items related to the improvement of instruction or materials related to capital improvements or supplies.

The next article documents the amount of push back I received in my efforts to obtain copies of the school district credit card statements after asking our school board members at the February 2014 school board meeting if they had been reviewing the credit card statements:


The documentation above leads to the next link which was a letter to the Fox C-6 community from the school district dated May 25, 2016. It was provided to the community after the release of the May 2016 Missouri State Auditor's report which gave the district a rating of "POOR".

The following statement really stands out in the letter to the community:

"The District, and its current administration, wish to see full restitution for any resources that were misused under previous policies and regulations." 

It's been nearly a year since the district issued the statement above and it doesn't appear that there has been much, if any effort, into seeking "full restitution for any resources that were misused under previous policies and regulations".


In April, prior to the elections I emailed the Fox C-6 school board members asking them what their plans were in recovering taxpayer monies that were documented in the May 2016 Missouri State Auditor's report as being misused or improperly obtained. I didn't receive any written responses from the board in response to my questions.

The community is going to have to make a concerted effort to voice your concerns and frustration to the Fox C-6 school board in order to recover the taxpayer dollars that were referenced in the 2016 Missouri State Auditor's report.

Last month the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the Arnold-Imperial Leader published articles about the recent release of a Follow Up report from Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway. Both articles referenced many of the items documented in the original State Auditor's report.

The articles have everyone in the community and outside the community talking again ad asking why there weren't any charges filed in this case.

Asking why no charges were filed in this case is certainly a valid question and one that taxpayers should be allowed to ask without fear of retribution or fear of being sued by our former superintendent. A Google search will provide you with many articles documenting how other school districts across the country recovered taxpayer dollars when faced with similar circumstances.