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New school board wants another look at report

New Farmington School Board members Tera Lee, Brian Treakle and Melissa Sauser take the oath of office Monday night at their first board meeting of the year. Lee was elected chair of the board for 2011.

It looks like the Farmington School Board isn't quite done with the report compiled from the district's investigation of board member Tim Burke.

At least, this board isn't.

With three new members on the board, there was talk Monday of taking a closer look at the report. New board chair Tera Lee asked that each board member get a copy of the final report to allow further consideration.

"I do not feel like I can make an educated decision about whether or not to move forward until I see that report," Lee said. "I want to know if there's something in there we do need to take further action on."

Lee said Tuesday she feels it's appropriate for all of the board members to have the same information.

Burke said he made allegations during his interviews about another district employee and would like to see some follow up on his concerns.

Board member Julie Singewald raised concerns Monday about diving back into the investigation without a clear idea of what they are looking for.

"I'm not at all interested in launching an investigation after it's brought to the table for the first time," board member Julie McKnight said.

Board members agreed to distribute redacted copies of the report to each of the board members.

Investigation has cost more than $13,000

The district has received most of the bills for its investigation of Burke. With at least one invoice still to come, it appears the investigation of Burke will cost the district at least $13,040.

That total includes bills from two law firms involved in the investigation.

Minnetonka attorney Jim Martin charged the district $10,000 for his part of the investigation. That is the number attorney Mick Waldspurger, who hired Martin and brought the report to the board, had identified as a likely maximum cost. The total is less than Martin's original bill. The invoice from Morrison, Fenske and Sund was for $14,120 but includes a courtesy discount that brings the cost back down to $10,000.

In November, Waldspurger told school board members he didn't expect the investigation to cost more than $10,000. He advised against imposing a cap on expenses because doing so, he said, might restrict the investigation.

"Based on my experience -- I've been doing this for almost 16 years -- $10,000 should be sufficient to do this investigation," Waldspurger told the board then. But in a e-mail to board members former board chair Veronica Walter wrote that Waldspurger had approached her to let her know the investigation was going to exceed that cost. Walter told board members in her e-mail that she asked Waldspurger to ensure the cost stayed as close as possible to $10,000.

The bill for Waldspurger's time is on top of what the district will pay Martin. Waldspurger's invoice includes conversations with board members, conversations with reporters and legal research and analysis. His total bill through November was $3,370, and District 192 administrative services director Rosalyn Pautzke said Waldspurger did a "not inconsiderable" amount of work in December. That bill will not come until later this month.

It's possible there could be more costs coming. When school board members reviewed the report Dec. 13, they voted to forward the information to the Dakota County Attorney's office for possible charges. The county attorney declined and passed the information on to Farmington's city attorney. The city has not yet made any decision about charges, but council members have said they would like to pass costs for the process, if there are any, on to the school district.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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