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School Board to discuss membership with Iowa Association of School Boards, amid controversy

BY HOLLY HINES | APRIL 06, 2010 7:30 AM

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The Iowa City School Board is set to discuss this spring its membership in the Iowa Association of School Boards, which is under investigation for claims of mismanaged funds, later this spring.

Iowa legislators recently questioned the Association of School Boards regarding allegations of inappropriate credit-card use and an unauthorized salary increase. The allegations stem from a report by the Des Moines Register on an internal fraud investigation and alleged misuse of funding, part of which is taxpayer money.

As a member of the association, which offers board training programs and insurance for the district, the School Board pays roughly $10,000 a year from district funds, said Superintendent Lane Plugge.

Plugge said the School Board will discuss its membership in the association when asked to renew, which will likely be sometime this spring.

School Board member Tuyet Dorau said she is unsure whether board members will decide to withdraw from the association.

Dorau said she’s disappointed that members of an organization representing the Iowa City School Board behaved inappropriately, especially when the district and some taxpayers are struggling financially.

“Improper action is probably putting it mildly right now,” she said.

Board member Michael Shaw said his opinion regarding the board’s membership will depend on how association officials remedy the situation and whether they hold the appropriate parties responsible.

Shaw said he’s concerned the investigation is distracting some officials from their goal of improving education for Iowa students.

“The fact that it’s distracting at all is a concern, regardless of the results,” he said.

Plugge said there are benefits of remaining a member, including insurance coverage.

The district couldn’t operate without the types of insurance the association offers, he said, and board members would need to search the market for comparable coverage if it dropped its membership.

Megan Forgrave, the communications director for the association, said the insurance they offer caters specifically to school districts, including such items as coverage for buses.

She said the association recently brought in investigators to look into the financial concerns, which included an unauthorized salary raise of roughly $150,000 for its director and improper charging of personal travel expenses.

The individuals involved — the former executive director and a consultant acting as chief financial officer — have begun to return the misused money, she said. Officials terminated both from the association.

Recently, association officials have taken steps to prevent future financial problems, including requiring more board members to authorize funding transferals.

The internal investigations are set to be completed by the end of April. Association officials will go before the legislative committee again in late April or May.



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