- Associated Press - Thursday, August 13, 2015

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) - The St. Joseph School District has received a fifth federal subpoena in an investigation into the district’s operations.

District Superintendent Robert Newhart said Wednesday at a news conference that the information requested in the subpoena was about current and former employees, The St. Joseph News-Press reported (http://bit.ly/1P93Bn6 ).

Previous subpoenas sought documents on tuition reimbursement, teacher certification and personnel records. Newhart says the district is cooperating in the investigation.

“We will continue to produce any information and cooperate fully in any regards to that investigation by the grand jury and the FBI,” Newhart said. “But we will not divulge the contents or the information in regards to that subpoena.”

Federal authorities began investigating the district last year after questions arose about stipends awarded to top administrators without board approval, as well as promotions and large pay raises.

The Missouri State Auditor’s office said in May that the district has made significant progress since receiving a highly critical audit in February. The February audit said the district gave more than $25 million in unauthorized or improper stipends to administrators in the last eight years. Other problems included improper promotions, unreasonable purchases with school funds, improper closed meetings and mismanaged bond investments.

Newhart also said IRS staff recently spent a week at the district as part of their audit, and he expects them to have a presence at the district over the next year.

“We actually view this IRS audit as an opportunity,” Newhart said. “Find out what we need to do, do better, to improve upon, to correct. Because ultimately that’s our goal is to get things right.”

Newhart said the district is also trying to close a $6.3 million budget gap caused by the end of a 63-cent tax levy, and has laid off the son of a former board president, and eliminated the warehouse supervisor position he held. He said 26 other positions have been cut through attrition, saving about $750,000.

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Information from: St. Joseph News-Press/St. Joe, Missouri, http://www.newspressnow.com

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