“Questionable Expenses”

“I told him it was potentially illegal activity. I couldn’t look the other direction, and [it was] reiterated it wouldn’t go well for my job.”

     That from former HR director Terry Welker who received a settlement of $993,120 after being dismissed due to alleged budget cuts. “I refused the severance package they offered me originally, just because I didn’t think it was in good faith,” Welker stated. He claimed to have witnessed illegal and immoral behavior— for example, timecard falsification.

Sophomore Kylie Dove expressed, “How does the school district find time and money to go on trips and spend money on random things they ‘need’ when as students we need much more help? It could be put towards club scholarships for the students and much more.” Many people have strong thoughts about the question- able expenditures at district office and the management skills of Waukee School’s chief operating officer (COO) Eric Rose.

Given the position of COO, Rose took on the responsibility of placing effective financial procedures within the district. Some individuals would argue that Rose is not living up to his job description. “A Waukee Schools’ internal investigation conducted in March 2016 found Rose kept a district snowblower at his home, had employees run errands for him while on the clock, provided his wife and son with key card access to district buildings and solicited donations for his son’s hockey team from district vendors using his work email address,” reported DSM Register reporter Kim Norvell. Then, a state audit released on Dec. 6 confirmed financial mis- deeds at Waukee. Even after allegations first surfaced, Rose was still rewarded with a 5.78% raise. Following the audit, Rose was placed on paid administrative leave.

At the board meeting that took place on Dec. 10, so packed that viewers spilled into the hallway, state representative Rob Taylor said, “In regards to the board and your oversight, let me also remind the board that oversight is defined as a watchful and responsible care of the taxpayers’ dollars, and I think that the audit report puts that in question.”

For some, the misuse of taxpayer dollars raises suspicion towards whether more funding for public education is in the community’s best interest. “The purchases are not something a school district should be spending the taxpayers’ money on […] The money needs to be spent on items that will enhance the education for kids of the district,” shared concerned citizen and mother of two, Carol Turpen. “He [Rose] needs to be fired for mishandling of school expenses.”

Communications Coordinator Nicole Lawrence stated that the district has updated several board policies on top of improving employee training in order to improve transparency. However, former legislator Rob Taylor believes the policies still have not been changed enough to prevent further misuse of school funding.

Whistleblower Nicholas Bavas, who felt he was forced out after publicizing Rose’s misconduct, sued the district for wrongful termination and settled for $175,000. Bavas told TV8 News, “When I was there, it was a culture of ‘do as you’re told and don’t ask questions… and I asked questions. […] I did the right thing and it cost me my job.” Bavas warned, “Until the taxpayer wakes up and asks for change, it’s gonna keep going the same.”

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