One of the whistleblowers who brought to light secret stipends in the St. Joseph School District has resigned.
Chief Financial Officer Beau Musser only worked for the district for 28 months, but he dramatically changed how it operates. The stipend scandal opened the district up to an FBI investigation, federal grand jury subpoenas, a state audit and, most recently, an IRS audit.
"The dirty secrets would have never seen the light if Beau hadn't discovered them and stepped up to do what's right," says Board of Education member Chris Danford. "His willingness to speak out even when there were efforts to both silence and discredit him speaks to the integrity of his character."
Musser spent seven months on paid administrative leave after the district falsely accused him of sexual misconduct when he raised questions about $5,000 stipends secretly paid to 54 administrators and other irregularities soon after he started as CFO.
Musser sued the district for slander and eventually would settle for $450,000.
Soon after Musser and Danford revealed those stipends the FBI opened an investigation and the Missouri State Auditor began combing through years of district documents.
The audit report shook the district to its foundation. It uncovered up to $40 million in unapproved stipends going back to 2000, unchecked nepotism, a confusing payroll system and numerous Missouri Sunshine Act violations.
"Beau played an important role in exposing financial issues that had been intentionally kept from the school board and public," says board member Kappy Hodges. "I can't blame him for seeking a more peaceful environment after all he's experienced."
Musser, a St. Joseph native, wouldn't say where he's going next.
"My professional career with the district is over, however my involvement with the district is not. With two young kids about to start school, I look forward to seeing future progress with the St. Joseph School District," Musser said in a statement.
While Musser certainly made enemies on the board and among some staff the current superintendent praised his service.
"Mr. Musser made an invaluable contribution to the St. Joseph School District," Robert Newhart said in a news release. "We thank him for his courage to ask difficult questions."
The district still faces a mountain of issues. The FBI investigation is ongoing and a month ago the district was served with a fifth federal grand jury subpoena. An IRS audit that at first was going to take just a few days will now stretch through the rest of the school year. The district is also facing a $12.2 million budget gap this fiscal year.