SIOUX CITY | After a new director of finance for the Sioux City School District was hired Monday, School Board President Mike Krysl revealed that Superintendent Paul Gausman won't be disciplined after the completion of an internal investigation into whether he had created a hostile workplace, as alleged by the former finance director.
"No disciplinary action was needed, according to the final decision of the board," Krysl said in a Journal interview after the end of the two-hour school board meeting.
Patricia Blankenship was approved by Sioux City School Board members as director of finance, effective July 1 for the 2017-18 school year. The school board needed to fill the position because the former director of finance, John Chalstrom, had been placed on administrative leave in February and is about to end his tenure with the school district.
In a report first aired by the Journal in March, Chalstrom accused Gausman of creating a hostile workplace and threatening his job if he shared alternative budget proposals with school board members outside regular board meetings. Chalstrom also said Gausman didn't consider all budget proposals to save money.
A Chalstrom intermediary, Dan Greenwell, shared the list of concerns with board members at a Feb. 11 meeting and in a series of emails.
Gausman has vehemently denied all of the charges.
Chalstrom was put on administrative leave two days after Greenwell’s Feb. 11 meeting with Krysl and Board Vice President Mike McTaggart. On April 10, the board approved a settlement agreement with Chalstrom on a 5-2 vote. Under the deal, he will remain on paid administrative leave until the expiration of his contract on June 30. He also will receive about $35,000 in severance pay through Sept. 30.
School Board President Mike Krysl in late April confirmed the board was "undertaking an investigation that we think is an appropriate follow-up to the allegations that were raised." Depending what details the in-house probe produces, an external investigation could follow at a later date, Krysl said at the time.
After the Monday meeting, Krysl told the Journal the investigation was concluded by the board. He said unless new information arises, the issues involving the allegations about Gausman are completely resolved.
"(The public) can rest assured that the board did take this seriously and undertook a fact-finding mission of its own....We don't think it is necessary to take any other action," Krysl said.
The school board has received legal advice from an outside attorney who concluded any records generated by an investigation related to the conduct or performance of a district employee or former employee would be confidential files not subject to disclosure under the state’s open records law.
Asked to characterize how extensive the investigation was and how many people were questioned, Krysl responded, "It was exhaustive enough to look at the merit of each and every allegation that was raised."
Chalstrom could not be reached for comment Monday.
Blankenship was hired at the salary of $140,107, just under the $140,225 her predecessor John Chalstrom made.
Blankenship most recently was an accountant for the King, Reinsch, Prosser firm in Sioux City, and is a graduate of Iowa State University. Blankenship was not present at the meeting, and her hiring was included in the Human Resources Staffing Report. School board member Perla Alarcon-Flory insisted her hiring be discussed.
"This is such a key position in the district," Alarcon-Flory said.
Board member David Gleiser said he had "some apprehension" that Blankenship hasn't previously worked for a school district. Gausman and board member John Meyers said she is a highly qualified certified public accountant, who for a decade has audited Sioux City School District financials.
"She is an experienced person in management," Meyers said.
Board member Paul Gorski added that the Blankenship hiring decision should have been brought into a full meeting agenda topic, "rather than just in a human resources report."