SIOUX CITY | The Sioux City School District offered no public explanation for suspending finance director John Chalstrom in mid-February, in the midst of the district crafting its annual budget.
A Journal investigation later revealed that the district placed Chalstrom on indefinite administrative leave, with pay and benefits, just two days after he leveled a series of charges against Superintendent Paul Gausman over his management style.
Through an intermediary, Chalstrom accused Gausman of creating a hostile workplace and threatening his job if he shared alternative budget proposals with board members outside of regular board meetings.
Dan Greenwell, a frequent Gausman and district critic, shared the list of the finance director's concerns with board President Mike Krysl and board Vice President Mike McTaggart at a Feb. 11 meeting in a Sioux City coffee shop and in a subsequent series of emails.
Gausman, a former Iowa superintendent of the year, denied all the allegations.
On April 10, a day after the Journal published its story, the school board, in a 5-2 vote, approved a settlement agreement with Chalstrom. Under the deal, he continued on paid administrative leave until the expiration of his contract on June 30, the end of the district's budget year. Additionally, he received about $35,000 in severance pay through Sept. 30.
The board also said it would launch an internal investigation into the issues raised by Chalstrom. Citing advice from an outside attorney based on legal precedents, the board said any records generated by an investigation related to the conduct or performance of a district employee or former employee would be treated as confidential files not subject to disclosure under the state’s open records law.
In June, Krysl said the probe found no evidence of wrong doing by Gausman or the district. Chalstrom subsequently said he was not questioned as part of the investigation.
"(The public) can rest assure that the board did take this seriously and undertook a fact-finding mission of its own," Krysl said in June, then days later he refused to say whether Chalstrom had been interviewed.
Chalstrom was formerly the superintendent in Siouxland, at the Cherokee School District, for 10 years prior to taking the Sioux City position in 2014.