|Board member, St. Joseph Board of Education, At-large|
|Elections and appointments|
|Last election||April 8, 2014|
|First elected||April 8, 2014|
|Bachelor's||University of Washington|
- 1 Biography
- 2 Elections
- 3 Campaign themes
- 4 Issues
- 4.1 Investigations into accounting and hiring practices
- 4.2 Beau Musser involvement and suspension
- 4.3 Secret tapes, superintendent fired
- 4.4 2015 financial audit report, "poor" rating
- 4.5 Criminal investigation called for, changes in legislation
- 4.6 Firings continue, Flowers demoted
- 4.7 Grand jury sends subpoena to West Plains School District
- 4.8 Financial repercussions
- 5 About the district
- 6 Recent news
- 7 See also
- 8 External links
- 9 References
The St. Joseph School District is under state and federal investigation due to potentially illegal accounting and hiring practices by district administrators. The investigation is focusing on stipends issued by former Superintendent Fred Czerwonka, who allegedly used a rebate from the district's insurance provider to give stipends to administrators without board approval. Additionally, Czerwonka, Human Resources Director Doug Flowers and school board member Dan Colgan also face accusations of using their positions to guarantee promotions within the district and raises for family members.
Hodges was part of the four-member voting bloc that put Czerwonka and Chief Operating Officer Rick Hartigan on paid administrative leave on January 20, 2015. She voted to fire Czerwonka in an executive session meeting held by the board on February 20, 2015.
- See also: Issues
Hodges has lived in the St. Joseph area since 2004 with her husband, Tim, and her son, Baker. She graduated from the University of Washington in 1989 with a bachelor's degree in communications and broadcast journalism. She serves in numerous community endeavors, including Cinderella's Closet, which helps girls get dresses for prom, and the Junior League. Hodges currently serves on the board at the Saint Joseph Animal Shelter and was the previous president of the Saint Joseph chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters. In 2013, she was named the YWCA Emerging Leader Woman of Excellence.
|St. Joseph School District, At-Large General Election, 6-year term, 2014|
|Source: Buchanan County, Missouri, "General Municipal Elections Official Results," June 20, 2014 (dead link)|
Hodges reported $5,050.90 in contributions and $4,174.57 in expenditures to the Missouri Ethics Commission, leaving her with $876.33 on hand.
Hodges was endorsed by the Saint Joseph Building & Construction Trades Council.
Hodges' campaign website listed the following as her campaign themes for 2014:
|“||Why are you running for school board?
—Kappy Hodges website (2014) 
Investigations into accounting and hiring practices
The St. Joseph School District faces investigations by the Missouri State Auditor, the United States Department of Education and the Federal Bureau of Investigation related to stipends issued by former Superintendent Fred Czerwonka. The former superintendent, appointed in July 2013, allegedly used a rebate from the district's insurance provider to distribute $270,000 in stipends to 54 administrators without board approval. District policy requires a report to the school board and a deposit of any excess funds including refunds from vendors. Czerwonka, district Human Resources Director Doug Flowers and school board member Dan Colgan also face accusations of using their positions to guarantee promotions within the district and raises for family members.
Beau Musser involvement and suspension
The flashpoint for the mismanagement allegations was a school board meeting on March 24, 2014. Board member Chris Danford presented information she received from district residents about the stipends offered by Czerwonka. Beau Musser, the district's chief financial officer (CFO), also revealed that he received a list of stipend recipients from Flowers. Musser was placed on paid leave on March 28, 2014, after the superintendent presented him with several accusations of sexual harassment against district employees. The CFO claimed in a lawsuit against the district that Czerwonka offered to drop the harassment claims if he resigned from his position. During Musser's time as CFO, he found that the district could not account for 4,000 gallons of fuel, failed to follow bidding procedures for district vehicles and approved $189,000 in consulting fees without board approval.
A press release issued by the district in November 2014 revealed that Musser would be returning to work, with the transitional assistance of OMNI Employment Management Services, an HR consulting firm. In addition, documents obtained by the St. Joseph News-Press stated that the district will be conducting an investigation into whether the initial suspension of Musser by administrators was justified.
On March 26, 2015, in an executive session, the St. Joseph Board of Trustees voted 5-0 to settle Musser's lawsuit against the district charging wrongful termination, breach of contract and slander. "We are relieved that we are at this point," said board member Chris Danford. On April 10, 2015, the district announced that it was paying Musser $450,000 to settle the slander lawsuit. The full agreement can be read here.
Secret tapes, superintendent fired
It was revealed in a January 2015 Ballotpedia report that CFO Beau Musser had secretly taped conversations from crucial meetings with Czerwonka and other district officials. Those tapes, which could prove to be important evidence, are being reviewed by lawyers involved in Musser's lawsuit, in addition to the FBI.
On January 20, 2015, after a closed door session, Czerwonka and Chief Operating Officer Rick Hartigan were both put on paid administrative leave by a vote of four to one. Board members Kappy Hodges, Lori Prussman, Chris Danford and Brad Haggard all voted in favor of the two men being placed on leave. Dan Colgan was the only board member to vote against it. However, Martin Rucker was not present for the meeting and told News-Press he was working in Jefferson City and could not make it to the meeting. Dennis Snethen attended the meeting with members of the state auditor's office, after which he left and did not return for the vote about Czerwonka and Hartigan's leaves. Both exited the building without comment. On February 20, 2015, the school board voted 6-0 in a closed executive session to fire Czerwonka. Colgan was the only board member not present at the meeting.
2015 financial audit report, "poor" rating
On February 17, 2015, a 53-page financial report was released by the Missouri State Auditor. Approximately 250 parents and community members attended its release at a new elementary school that opened in 2014. Missouri Auditor Thomas Schweich (R), revealed his findings to the crowd: a widespread lack of financial control. Schweich pointed to stipends unknown and unapproved by the school board, financial mismanagement that is now speculated to date back as far as 2000. The total number of dollars involved in the stipend system could range from $25 million over eight years to $40 million over 14 years. In either case, says Schweich, "a staggering amount of money" is involved.
At the forefront, the audit points to two of the district's top administrators, former Superintendent Fred Czerwonka and Chief Operating Officer Rick Hartigan, for adding thousands of dollars to their compensation without board approval and for other expenses charged to the district. For example, Czerwonka was given an additional $6,000 on top of his $190,000 salary for having a graduate degree. That degree is required for the position and was not listed anywhere in Czerwonka's contract. Hartigan’s base salary in 2014 was $97,700, however he received an additional $35,343 in stipends for being on the superintendent’s council, night duty, longevity and for something simply labeled "additional." According to Schweich, no one at the district could explain what this "additional" expense could be.
Schweich also rated the district’s performance as "poor." St. Joseph is the only Missouri school district to be rated that low by the state auditor’s office. According to school board member Chris Danford, the strain of this investigation is hurting the district's students. "We don’t have textbooks for everyone. We have larger classes. I mean, we could have done so much more for our students. They don’t get those years back." The audit also says the district has too many no-bid contracts, does not have an adequate system for tracking district property such as cell phones and tablets, and has too many employees with credit cards.
Allegations of nepotism
Nepotism is also a significant problem in the district, according to Missouri Auditor Thomas Schweich (R). The audit singled out Human Resources Director Doug Flowers and school board member Dan Colgan, a retired St. Joseph superintendent. Doug's wife Tammy Flowers and Czerwonka's wife Wendy both received controversial promotions and raises in 2014. According to district sources, both women were recently interviewed by the FBI in their district offices.
In regard to Colgan, the audit criticizes the district for providing him with medical insurance for life when he retired in 2005. In 2014, the amount paid for Colgan's medical insurance was $4,600. Additionally, Colgan’s son, Mark, also manages the district’s warehouse. In 2014, he was promoted, along with a $16,226 raise. The audit says no documentation detailing Mark Colgan’s additional duties was created. The position also requires a master’s degree, which Colgan does not have.
The audit says the district "has not established adequate policies and procedures for the hiring, supervising and tracking of related employees."
Reaction to financial report
Following the release of the audit, acting superintendent Dr. Jake Long said the district is continuing to make improvements with regard to the auditor's recommendations. District officials say that many of the changes have been underway since April 2014, when they were alerted to some of the financial issues. Those issues could not be discussed previously because of auditor investigation confidentiality issues. According to Long, "[District officials are] not going to wait until the problem comes out to change it if it’s wrong and the wrong process to go about doing it.”
CFO Beau Musser commented on the tough decisions the district will have to face in regards to payroll and accounting, as a result of the audit. Musser said he is in favor of adequate payroll staff so that oversight is provided for those concerns. "We have a $120 million budget and we have one accounts payable clerk. Any organization our size would be wise to have a purchasing manager and have a lot more control," he said.
Board member Kappy Hodges stated the district will follow any budget recommendations set forth by the auditor and will also conduct a market analysis salary and expenditure study. Hodges thinks accountability is the answer: "I think we need to hold people accountable that made bad judgment calls that are more than just a simple mistake."
A Ballotpedia report on the St. Joseph School District scandal.
Criminal investigation called for, changes in legislation
In the wake of the audit's release, a Missouri state senator is calling for a criminal investigation by the Missouri attorney general of those involved in the scandal. State Sen. Rob Schaaf (R) from St. Joseph deems the actions uncovered by Missouri State Auditor Thomas Schweich "illegal and greatly disturbing." Schaaf said in a statement that he has asked the attorney general to "closely examine the documents the auditor has compiled and bring charges against those responsible for the mishandling of the funds within the St. Joseph public schools." He is also calling for the Governor's Office and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to demand $3.5 million in state aid be returned from the school district.
In addition, Schaaf filed legislation that would shorten school board terms from six years to three years. That bill, Senate Bill 473, passed on April 2, 2015. According to Schaaf, longer terms foster a cozy relationship between the board and administrators, which can prompt the lack of oversight and accountability uncovered by the audit. The bill will also allow St. Joseph voters to recall school board members.
On April 8, 2015, the Missouri General Assembly overrode a gubernatorial veto of a bill that aims to keep superintendents from seeking a seat on the board of a district they previously served. Resigned board member Dan Colgan served as St. Joseph's superintendent for 14 years before he sought election to the board. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) vetoed the bill on April 3, 2015, saying that the law would prevent too many administrators from seeking office. Lawmakers are pledging to revise the bill to address the governor's questions. “We are committed to addressing the governor’s concerns in another bill and still have two provisions related to the St. Joseph School District we are continuing to work on,” Schaaf said.
Firings continue, Flowers demoted
A week after the St. Joseph board voted to fire Superintendent Fred Czerwonka, Chief Operating Officer Rick Hartigan was also relieved of his duties at St. Joseph on February 28, 2015. Hartigan had previously been in charge of all district vendor contracts. On the same day, the board demoted Human Resources Director Doug Flowers, offering him a teaching contract for the 2015-2016 school year. These three top administrators were roundly criticized in a report from the Missouri State Auditor. According to sources, all have been interviewed multiple times by the FBI as part of the ongoing investigation.
As a result of the overwhelming controversy surrounding him, school board member Dan Colgan resigned from his position on March 5, 2015. The resignation came after much speculation regarding his status, largely because as an elected member, Colgan couldn't have been ousted. There is no law that allows St. Joseph Board of Education members to be recalled by voters. Colgan sent a terse resignation letter to St. Joseph Board President Brad Haggard, calling his decision to resign difficult "as I dearly love the St. Joseph School District." The board will now take applications for the open seat. Board member Chris Danford says they hope to fill the open slot by the April board meeting.
Grand jury sends subpoena to West Plains School District
In late March 2015, the federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo. sent a subpoena to West Plains School District, also in Missouri, where Czerwonka served as superintendent from 2009 to 2013. West Plains Superintendent Dr. John Mulford confirmed he received the subpoena in the mail. "The FBI made it clear that the West Plains District is not being investigated," Mulford said. "The subpoena is for records for a former West Plains employee now in St. Joseph." At the same time of the request, the jury sent a fourth subpoena to St. Joseph, with Czerwonka being the link between the two. Sources say the latest subpoena in St. Joseph demands expense reports and time sheets for some top administrators and contracts from certain district vendors.
In December 2014, it was disclosed in a report by Ballotpedia that the district could lose up to $2 million in state funding in addition to the slew of federal charges facing them. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education notified the district that it was disallowing reimbursement for more than half of the district's summer school classes because they did not follow specific guidelines. Some of these offenses included the class was not being held in a district building and that parents were charged a fee for the class. The district has since disputed some of the charges. To add to the mix, a significant part of the district’s property tax levy sunsets this year. The district stands to lose $6.5 million at a time when the district is already deficit-spending and eating into its reserves if voters don’t renew it. A recent poll indicated that if the levy were on the ballot today, 48 percent would vote against it, 39 percent would vote to renew it and the remaining 14 percent are undecided.
About the districtMissouri in Buchanan County. The county seat of Buchanan County is St. Joseph. St. Joseph is home to 77,147 residents, according to the United States Census Bureau. In the 2011-2012 school year, the St. Joseph School District was the 17th-largest school district in Missouri and served 11,721 students.
Higher education achievement
St. Joseph underperformed in comparison to the rest of Missouri in terms of higher education attainment. The United States Census Bureau found that 20.4 percent of St. Joseph residents over 25 years old held undergraduate degrees compared to a 25.8 percent rate for the state of Missouri.
Median household income
St. Joseph had a median household income of $42,248 in 2010 compared to $47,333 for Missouri.
The poverty rate for St. Joseph was 18.4 percent in 2010 compared to a 10.5 percent rate for the entire state.
Note: The United States Census Bureau considers "Hispanic or Latino" to be a place of origin rather than a race. Citizens may report both their race and their place of origin, and as a result, the percentages in each column of the racial demographics table may exceed 100 percent.
This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Kappy + Hodges + St. + Joseph + School + District + Missouri"
- All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.
- St. Joseph School District, Missouri
- St. Joseph School District elections (2014)
- Stipend scandal erupts in St. Joseph, Missouri
- FBI narrows probe in St. Joseph stipend scandal
- St. Joseph school board rescinds CFO suspension
- St. Joseph school board CFO deals with $2M shortfall, emotional return
- Secret tapes revealed, scathing audit expected in St. Joseph School District saga
- St. Joseph School District administrators placed on leave
- St. Joseph School District rated "poor" in financial audit
- Criminal investigation called for in wake of St. Joseph School District audit
- Board votes to fire St. Joseph School District superintendent
- Another firing, more fallout in St. Joseph School District
- Dan Colgan resigns seat on St. Joseph Board of Education
- Ballotpedia publishes video report on St. Joseph School District scandal
- St. Joseph investigation widens; acting superintendent considers new job
- St. Joseph School District settles Musser lawsuit
- Musser lawsuit settlement released
- St. Joseph's School District, "Board Installs New Members, Says Goodbye to Outgoing Members"," accessed April 16, 2014
- St. Joseph News-Press, "Board again waives attorney-client privilege," January 29, 2015
- Kappy Hodges Saint Joseph School Board, "About Kappy," accessed April 1, 2014
- LinkedIn, "Kappy Hodges," accessed July 2, 2014
- Missouri Ethics Commission, "Campaign Finance Reports," accessed April 9, 2014
- Kappy Hodges Saint Joseph School Board, "Kappy endorsed by Saint Joseph Building & Construction Trades Council," accessed April 1, 2014
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- Kappy Hodges Saint Joseph School Board, "Kappy in Her Own Words," accessed April 1, 2014
- St. Joseph News-Press, "Firm to investigate Musser suspension," November 5, 2014
- St. Joseph News-Press, "Board again waives attorney-client privilege," January 29, 2015
- News-Press NOW, "District begins on long road to recovery," February 19, 2015
- St. Joe Channel, "State Lawmaker Calls for Charges in SJSD Investigation," February 18, 2015
- News-Press Now, "Senate passes school board term limits bill," April 2, 2015
- News-Press Now, "Lawmakers override Nixon veto of school bill," April 8, 2015
- United States Census Bureau, "St. Joseph (city), Missouri," accessed February 5, 2014
- National Center for Education Statistics, "ELSI Table Generator," accessed April 22, 2014
- Missouri Secretary of State, "Missouri Election Results," accessed January 23, 2015
- United States Census Bureau, "Frequently Asked Questions," accessed April 21, 2014
- Each column will add up to 100 percent after removing the "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin percentages, although rounding by the Census Bureau may make the total one- or two-tenths off from being exactly 100 percent. This Ballotpedia page provides a more detailed explanation of how the Census Bureau handles race and ethnicity in its surveys.
|2014 St. Joseph School District Elections|
|Buchanan County, Missouri|
|Election date:||April 8, 2014|
|Candidates:||At-large: Jeff Bird • Kappy Hodges • Lori Prussman|
|Important information:||Key deadlines • Additional elections on the ballot|
State of Missouri
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