The St. Joseph School District, wrapped up in scandals and criminal investigations, has put at least one legal headache behind it.
The district has settled a slander lawsuit with CFO Beau Musser for $450,000. Far less than many expected.
The lawsuit named former superintendent Fred Czerwonka, former HR director Doug Flowers and current school board member Dennis Snethen. Czerwonka has been fired and Flowers demoted. Snethen remains on the board.
In the eight page agreement, nobody admits any wrongdoing.
"The Released Parties specifically deny any wrongdoing and deny having violated Mr. Musser's rights under any federal, state, or local statute or law," the settlement says.
Musser was accused by Czerwonka and Flowers of sexual misconduct after Musser discovered the district paid 54 administrators $5,000 stipends without school board approval. The revelation of those payments opened the door to the current FBI investigation and to a state audit that uncovered millions of dollars more in secret stipends.
According to Musser's lawsuit, Czerwonka and Flowers offered to buy out Musser's contract and drop the misconduct charge if he kept quiet about the stipends.
Instead Musser, a St. Joseph native and former high school basketball star, sued.
"This should, without a doubt, clear my name once and for all. I feel vindicated and I'm happy to have this behind me," says Musser.
The district wouldn't comment but board member Chris Danford, who also blew the whistle on the stipends, was pleased with the settlement.
"I'm relieved that this is behind us now so that we can more forward."
The district's troubles are far from over. Czerwonka is fighting his dismissal and a hearing before the board in executive session is expected in the coming weeks.
The current interim superintendent, Dr. Jake Long, just announced he's taking a new job in Arkansas.
And a federal grand jury in Kansas City two weeks ago issued a fourth subpoena for documents to the district. The investigation has apparently spread to the West Plains School District in southern Missouri. Czerwonka was superintendent there before being hired in St. Joseph two years ago.