ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The FBI is investigating the St. Joseph school district's finances after word spread that the superintendent had handed out unauthorized money to administrators.
The superintendent says he did nothing wrong, although he gave more than $200,000 in stipends to administrators without permission from the entire board.
He says it was completely within his jurisdiction, but one board member, Chris Danford, is asking that if he did nothing wrong, why has caught the attention of the FBI?
Chris Danford is passionate about what she does. She was a teacher and counselor in the St. Joseph district for 20 years.
“That's what I gave my life for. That's my calling,” said Danford.
Not long after she decided to join the school board.
“I wanted to be a part of bringing the district back to the district that I loved,” she said.
But soon rumors of her beloved district's finances started to spread. She heard 54 administrators had each gotten $5,000 in stipends. Danford said she immediately approached Superintendent Fred Czerwonka, and he confirmed it was true.
“I stopped breathing. I was like, ‘what? You can't do that,’” she recalled.
Danford says the district's policy clearly states Czerwonka needs approval from the entire board before handing out stipends.
Minutes from a febuary meeting shows the board did approve stipends, but Danford says she had no idea it was a new decision and thought it was already counted into this year's budget.
“We never even had the opportunity he just took it from us,” she said.
Czerwonka apologized in a recent meeting to members for not telling them he had decided to spend more than 200 thousand dollars on stipends, but Danford says it's too little too late.
“For those students who could use all the opportunities we could give to them, they're taken away,” said Danford.
The district recently had to cut $3 million from the budget. 10 teaching positions were eliminated.
All the while, Danford says the thousands that were handed to administrators could've been put into education, and student's futures.
“Who won? 54 administrators? Who lost? 11,000 students,” said Danford.