INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana state lawmakers reviewing the issue of superintendent compensation can learn a lot from the recent Wayne Township lawsuit filed against former superintendent Terry Thompson.
The district alleges Thompson and his attorneys schemed to defraud the district through a series of complicated contract changes that were never discussed in detail with board members.
Those changes allegedly boosted his income from $218,000 in 2003 to $2.2 million in 2010, according to the IndyChannel.com
, which broke the news of Thompson’s $1 million severance that ultimately led to the lawsuit.
The issue centers on payments to employees for unused sick days, an issue we’ve pointed to repeatedly as an example of unnecessary school spending.
The lawsuit alleges that Thompson changed his payments for unused sick days from the standard $57 per day rate the district pays other administrators to 50 percent of his per diem pay, which was $413 in 2005 and increased each year.
He also allegedly removed a cap on the number of unused days he could accumulate, the IndyChannel.com reports.
We’re unsure about the specific circumstances in Thompson’s case, but several superintendent contracts we’ve reviewed in the past allow administrators to convert unused personal or vacation days to unused sick days, as well.
The lawsuit alleges that Thompson told board members the changes to his contract were minor, and assured his attorneys that some changes were approved by the board, the IndyChannel.com reports.
"The district did not learn about or fully understand the extent of the former superintendent's fraudulent conduct until after a full investigation was conducted by independent legal counsel," according to the district’s legal complaint.
That investigation cost the district $250,000, and the resulting report is now being used in the civil suit. But school officials have withheld the report from the public.
While it’s a shame that the district is forced to spend six figures to hold Thompson accountable for his alleged misdeeds, we believe it is money well spent. The lawsuit sends the message that schools will vigorously pursue those who attempt to use their positions to pad their own pockets. It will undoubtedly cause others considering similar schemes to think twice.
But we are disappointed that the district is keeping its $250,000 report in the shadows. The citizens who paid for it deserve to know the details.
Publicizing the report could also help other districts from making the same costly mistake by exposing how Thompson allegedly manipulated the system.