Audit finds over $2 million in "improper" Mason City school spending

School district requested the audit in August 2017.

Posted: Dec 28, 2018 10:29 AM
Updated: Dec 28, 2018 11:32 PM

DES MOINES, Iowa – A state audit of the Mason City School District has found over $2 million in improper payments.

State Auditor Mary Mosiman released a report Friday on her investigation of school district spending between July 1, 2009, and August 31, 2017. The investigation was requested by the Mason City school district after concerns raised by a re-audit of the 2015 fiscal year that was completed in August 2017.

Mosiman says she found $2,238,952.08 in improper payments, broken down into:

- $1,344.314.30 in salary to various school administrators.
- $217,405.64 in FICA and IPERS deductions on the improper payroll.
- $387,682.09 in school district contributions to tax-sheltered annuity retirement accounts for various administrators.
- $171,998.36 for the resignation package awarded to Dr. Anita Micich, former Mason City Superintendent.
- $117,551.69 in vacation balance payouts to various school administrators.

Mosiman says the $1.3 million in improper salary was paid to 66 school district employees. Her report also states that during the time Dr. Micich was shared Superintendent for Mason City and Clear Lake school districts, Mason City overbilled Clear Lake by $7,370 as part of the sharing agreement.

The Mason City School District has issued a statement on the results of the state audit. It states the investigation did not find any excess payments after July 1, 2017 and that the core problems identified by the investigation were corrected in July 2017. The District also states it believes the separation payment made to Dr. Micich was appropriate based on the terms of her contract.

The Mason City Board of Education is scheduled to discuss the results of this investigation at a Committee of the Whole work/study session on January 7. The meeting will start at 5:30 pm in the Administrative Center at 1515 South Pennsylvania Avenue and questions and comments from the public are invited.

Former school board member Janna Arndt discovered how the numbers weren't adding up, and together with other board members, worked to get the request to the state auditor's office. She feels sad for the district in light of the report.

"That's a lot of money. It's stuff we could've done for the kids, had an even better STEM program than what we did when I was on the board. Or have that gym that everyone talks about. Or just have enough teachers in the classrooms. And that was taken from the kids and the community."

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation says it received a copy of State Auditor's report and is investigating former Mason City school superintendent Dr. Anita Micich with the Cerro Gordo County Attorney's Office. If the DCI decides to press charges, Arndt says she wants the investigation to serve its purpose.

"I hope that if the DCI warrants that charges should be pressed, that charges should be pressed. We'll probably never get all of that back. We could always hope. But what we do get back might be worth something."

The full statement from the Mason City School District is below. To read the full report from the Iowa Auditor of State’s Office, click here.

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