A former member of the St. Joseph school board now says the FBI offered to meet with the board about the bureau’s investigations into the district, and the district said no. Chris Danford made the explosive claim on her Facebook page on Monday.
“I have been asked to confirm someone else’s Face Book post regarding a proposed meeting between the St. Joseph School District Board of Education and the FBI,” Danford wrote. “Yes, I can confirm that the FBI did offer to meet with the superintendent and the board.”
“So, did this meeting between FBI agents and the Board happen? No.” according to the posting. “Who declined, you probably ask? I can only tell you the full board did not make that decision. I, for one, pushed over and over for this meeting to take place.” Superintendent Dr. Robert Newhart and the district’s lawyer did meet with the Bureau, and Newhart presented information from that meeting to the school board in August of 2016.
Danford said she pushed for reports from the district’s internal investigation to be released. The board voted 5-2 not to release the results of the $100,000 internal probe.
“I have heard that some current board members have publicly posted that there was no criminal activity in those reports,” Danford wrote on Facebook, an assertion she denies.
“Oh yes, there was,” she wrote. “Pages and pages documenting a variety of infractions. Those did not reach the $5,000 threshold for a federal felony (the FBI’s threshold) – however, that doesn’t dismiss the criminal activity and the bizarre system that ruled the district at the time.”
Danford also asserted a possible motive for withholding the reports. “Oh, I’ve been told the statute of limitations on these violations is 5 years – in other words, 2018. Is that the motive?,” she wrote on Facebook. “As far as I know, local law enforcement authorities have never seen the FBI files or those internal investigations.”
We spoke on Wednesday with Dr. Newhart.
In an interview, he said Danford is rehashing old complaints that Newhart said had already been thoroughly vetted by the Board of Education. Newhart added that we cannot continue to “hold the district hostage” because of prior practices and incidents.
“This has been vetted before the board, and that’s what publicly people need to know,” Newhart said. “Exclusively, extensively, it’s been vetted.”
What Danford referred to as “a variety of infractions,” were characterized by Newhart “inept leadership.”
“The question came down to were there minor misdemeanors, or sloppiness and inept leadership of prior administrators that are no longer working for the district,” he said.
He did agree with Danford that the statute of limitations was one factor in the district’s decision not to release reports from their internal investigations into the districts financial and personnel controversies. Newhart says releasing the reports would expose the district to liability.
So if the statute had expired, Newhart said neither he nor the board would have reason to withhold the reports from the public.