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More light shed on potential Mason City school district salary shenanigans

This news story was published on June 29, 2017.
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John Berg, holding a check.

MASON CITY – Emails obtained via public records request between top Mason City school district board directors and administrators have been released, and new light is being shed on possible malfeasance involving highly-paid administrators.

On May 20, 2017, school board member Jodi Draper began to investigate a possible issue with school district Finance Director John Berg, according to an email trail submitted to NIT after a public records request.

According to other documents and records NIT requested (some re-dacted, others not re-dacted, and others that were duplicates of re-dacted emails that seem to be mistakenly included to the media from the Ahlers Law Firm), John Berg was hired at a starting salary of $65,000.00, starting July 1, 2015 (fiscal year 2016). With a 3% non-bargaining employee wage increase, Berg’s 2016 salary should have been $66,950. However, Berg was paid a base salary of $82,250.00 in fiscal year 2017. This is a discrepancy of $15,300.

NIT is learning that there could be thousands of dollars more unaccounted for. Berg, according to documents, has “a 2 year general degree with certificate in accounting.”  Berg was placed on paid administrative leave earlier this month due to questions about his salary.

One school board member, Lorrie Lala, said in one document released to NIT that she’s “almost sick about this. I personally had a mission to prevent these crazy increases in salary over a short amount of time. Is this how the large increases happened before, without board approval?

“We should all be angry.”

Michael Penca

NIT has learned that now-former Interim School District Administrator Mike Penca was orchestrating a behind-the-scenes pay increase for Berg from $65,000 to $75,000 – an increase that never came to pass, officially (more to come on this particular issue). One email NIT has perused says “Mike wanted to increase John’s salary to 75,000.00,” director Jodi Draper wrote.

Draper went on to say “Mike states that Janna and Lorrie gave him permission to give (raises) beyond the 2.5% … Also, (Penca) stated since staff left and they had more money than they anticipated that he used those dollars to give the additional raises.

“The part that is not making sense to me in Mike’s explanation to date,” Draper continued.  “He requested $75,000.00 but John’s salary is listed as $82,250.00 beyond what he stated he requested from Janna and Lorrie.”

It should be noted that no two board members can arbitrarily make district policy or set wages. It takes the action of a quorum of the school board to accomplish this in a public meeting.

Jodi Draper

Draper says in another email “Janna and Lorrie can not give permission to give out such raises, we have to do that as a Board. Janna and Lorrie both deny stating any of that to Mike.  With that said, I will not allow this behavior again to be kept on the hush, I have a duty to the people who chose to put their faith in me and vote for me, to be transparent. I will request that the community be made aware.”

Questions in the community continue to swirl as to what possibly gave John Berg the impetus to possibly pay himself upwards of $15,300 (and potentially more) above and beyond his approved salary. One question posed to NIT has been “was this a systemic illness in the school district, perhaps birthed under Anita Micich and Ramona Jeffery, where dollars would simply be diverted where ever top district administrators wanted them to go, rather than where the elected board gave approval?”

We may find out the answer to that question if and when a state audit is completed of the Mason City School District, or, when more documents are released.

NIT continues to investigate this situation, and anticipates much more fallout in the coming weeks and months.

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32 Responses to More light shed on potential Mason City school district salary shenanigans

  1. Avatar

    Run while you can Reply Report comment

    July 2, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Public school administrators belong to a special club that you and I will never be invited to join. Their chief concern is getting their hands on as much of our money as possible with the “don’t you care about kids?” line of BS. Then lining their own pockets with our cash.

    Just another swamp that needs draining.

  2. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    July 1, 2017 at 11:32 am

    how much should he be paid for handling the whole the district’s budget?

    • Avatar

      Dick Neely Reply Report comment

      July 3, 2017 at 8:49 pm

      He should get the exact salary his contract and employment agreement states he will receive. No more, no less.

  3. Avatar

    Pat Reply Report comment

    July 1, 2017 at 12:06 am

    Remember the recent Iowa School Board Association insider thefts
    Via the Ex. Director giving herself and others unauthorized mega
    Raises and bonus payments into the tens of thousands.
    MC must have attended some of these training sessions via the District’s membership in such a fine , open and honest organization.

    • Avatar

      bodacious Reply Report comment

      July 4, 2017 at 9:59 am

      Not sure about this. Do you have a link?

  4. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    June 30, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    Do these fortunate people receive a $1000 per year retirement bonus like the ones in Rudd/Rockford/Marble Rock ? You know 30 years $30,000.00

  5. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    June 30, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    Great investigative reporting, Matt!

    Would you please research and post where citizens can file formal complaints with the state and federal agencies? These so called budget cuts that turned into surplus monies to line the administrations pockets is just wrong on so many levels. The state and federal auditors need to be called in to seriously look into these unscrupulous practices.

  6. Avatar

    Sad but true Reply Report comment

    June 30, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    might be time to stop giving public entitys a blank check. Why does the taxpayer have to keep funding over payment and fraud?

  7. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    June 30, 2017 at 10:43 am

    I agree on your view of worth county – but Manly,Ia. has the highest property tax rate in the whole state of Iowa? – Well our city gives huge gifts to corporations well over 3 million dollars in the past 5 years? Regan Banks council member a month ago made a motion for Manly taxpayers to kick in on a 80 million Alliant energy pipeline thru worth county – worth county taxpayers would be on the hook for 26 million dollars as their portion. Looking out for you the private citizen ? I think NOT !

  8. Avatar

    MattG Reply Report comment

    June 30, 2017 at 10:28 am

    Where’s law enforcement in this matter? Hummmmm, is this not fraud? Maybe they don’t want ‘other’ things exposed? Something is rotten here. Maybe because their names are not Behm and local authorities like to play favorites?

  9. Avatar

    MattG Reply Report comment

    June 30, 2017 at 10:20 am

    Could Jodi be MC’s answer to a REAL mayor?

    • Avatar

      Anonymous Reply Report comment

      June 30, 2017 at 6:34 pm

      Yes, absolutely. Hopefully, we’ll get lucky, and she’ll agree to stick her neck out again.

  10. Avatar

    MattG Reply Report comment

    June 30, 2017 at 10:18 am

    CHEERS TO JODI DRAPER: this is one of many MC and CG County institutions and law enforcement agencies that need serious investigations into fraud,corruption,playing favorites and going beyond their legal authority.

  11. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    June 30, 2017 at 7:57 am

    About time to audit the whole of worlh county was looked into. – How can a small town like Manly Ia. have the highest taxes in the state ? It’s surely not because of its (honest elected officials) in the city or county? Giveaways/Gifts to corporations a possibility ? What the hell is Banks doing back in city government – We thought we fired him when he was mayor ?

    • Avatar

      Anonymous Reply Report comment

      July 1, 2017 at 8:39 am

      Manly does not have the highest property tax in the state. I just looked on the worth county assessor page and manly is no where near the highest. Probably not even in the top fifty-ithpercentile.

      For a $60k house in Manly, the property tax is $1000. What do you think the same value house in Des Moines pays?

  12. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    June 30, 2017 at 7:49 am

    Most anything to do with government -city/county/state/fed is up for bid – FBI/Jimmy Hoffa – ????

  13. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    June 30, 2017 at 7:43 am

    Super job Jodi ! You know your on the revenge list OF most or all public servants -you have broken their code of silence and corruption. Oh well the state of Illinois is doing well by not having a budget or over site of taxpayers dollars. Hell it’s normal procedure for elected officials and I guess public servants to deceive and steal hard working peoples money . PS Jodi – GREAT WORK !

  14. Avatar

    citizen Reply Report comment

    June 30, 2017 at 7:40 am

    Then the schools always want more money. No wonder we do not trust them. Thank you Jodi for having our backs.

    • Avatar

      Anonymous Reply Report comment

      June 30, 2017 at 4:33 pm

      Like most on here, I am beyond upset at this “behind the scenes” money grap by an administrator. But please do not condemn the teachers at the same time–they are covered by a contract that is negotiated in public view–and I guarantee none of them got this kind of salary bump. I hope the School Board looks at the top-heavy nature of MCCS; we need fewer chiefs and many more “Indians” for the welfare of our children.

      • Avatar

        Anonymous Reply Report comment

        June 30, 2017 at 6:37 pm

        Agreed, 100%. The teachers don’t get access to any money at all, much less funds they’re not entitled to!

  15. Avatar

    Sad but true Reply Report comment

    June 30, 2017 at 7:20 am

    drain the swamp, everyone employed there is overpaid!

  16. Avatar

    Lionel Foster Reply Report comment

    June 30, 2017 at 7:18 am

    As I recall, Jodi was the first board member to confront Anita Micich about those unauthorized salary increases, and the manipulation of employee’s vacation time. She is also the only board member who had the courage to request a timely state audit of the financial operations of Micich. Seem to me that Jodi is a “Taxpayers Watchdog” who we should praise, not cheap shot. JODI FOR CITY COUNCIL!!!

  17. Avatar

    Taking Care of Business Reply Report comment

    June 29, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    Penca is not the problem. The board members approved the pay hike. They may only have an email that shows one bump at $75,000 but I have no doubt they approved all of it. Furthermore, you tell me how Ramona Jeffrey’s was darn near the highest if not the highest paid in the entire state of Iowa and she wasn’t even a CPA! They had to hire a second person to do the job in the background. Meanwhile, it appears that when special needs children needed something specific to succeed there wasn’t any money in the budget and at the end of the year, if there was a surplus, well that would just be pocketed amongst the administrators. Where are the checks and balances so this doesn’t happen ever again?

    • Avatar

      Not really Reply Report comment

      June 29, 2017 at 9:30 pm

      I read the article the board did not know. Lori is angry, Jodi was angry. That Mike gave a raise that they did not know about. But I agree their needs to be more checks and balances. I think Jodi and Lori are trying to be that check and balance. When is the audit done?

      • Avatar

        Taking Care of Business Reply Report comment

        June 30, 2017 at 12:18 am

        I believe previously the school board had said it had no clue how John Berg (Fiancé Director) got that kind of pay and only through a public records request (Freedom of Information Act) was it brought to light the email approving the $75,000. Why did these two board members feel they had the power to do such? Sanctions are needed for these two who approved this. They were clearly overstepping policy and procedures. Meanwhile, John Berg gets fired for apparently doing nothing orher than accepting the pay raise per the board members approval. States and Feds need to take a serious look at this and charges need to be brought forth. Any parent that requested assistance for their child and went without due to so called budget cuts/concerns while the administration lined their own pockets needs to file formal complaints. Not to mention any and all teachers/paraprofessionals who may have been laid off due to so called budget cuts while again administrators lined their own pockets with surplus monies. The ramifications may certainly be profound.

  18. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    June 29, 2017 at 7:32 pm

    I can’t wait for it to come out that Jody is embezzling money from someone.

    • Avatar

      Reality Reply Report comment

      June 29, 2017 at 7:39 pm

      Not in this lifetime.

    • Avatar

      Marissa Reply Report comment

      June 29, 2017 at 7:40 pm

      One her name is jodi not Jody. And two that woman would never do anything of the nature. She devoted her extra time to make sure no one was stealing for the people in mason city.

    • Avatar

      Anonymous Reply Report comment

      June 30, 2017 at 6:17 am

      Jodi is as honest as they come and you will never find anyone who is a straight a shooter as her. We are very fortunate to have her watching our backs.

    • Avatar

      Lisa J Reply Report comment

      June 30, 2017 at 8:31 am

      I have known Jodi professionally for years. Working at Mercy, and would call her a friend. I would say John or John’s family should not post under anonymous we can figure it out, it is someone related if not John himself. So John are you admitting that you embezzled dollars?

  19. Avatar

    PENNY Reply Report comment

    June 29, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    Draper means business. Thank goodness she is watching our money. As far as Jon Berg. What a damn thief. AND MIKE PENCA. ARIZONA CAN HAVE HIM.