On Wednesday, the Ankeny, Iowa school board against District 308 Superintendent Matthew Wendt, charging that he defrauded them by accepting a $176,000 transitional allowance upon his resignation, and then signing a three-year deal with the Oswego School District the next day.
Wendt denies the allegations, and for the first time, spoke out about them in a written statement on Wednesday. Here is that statement.
I appreciate this opportunity to provide the true facts of my resignation as superintendent of the Ankeny Community School District to the public and the media:
During the negotiations that led to the buyout of my contract and the tendering of my resignation letter, (which was written by board attorney Krausman), I provided all information they requested of me and truthfully answered any questions they asked of me. At no time during the process did I feel the need to even be represented by an attorney.
- It has been previously reported that on May 24, I was negotiating with the board for an amount equal to 18 months of my base salary in exchange for my resignation. What has not been reported is that negotiations regarding my potential departure started more than three weeks earlier when it became clear that George Tracy, president of the Ankeny Board of Education, wanted a change in leadership and my continuing employment contract was an obstacle. I also was told at that time by Mr. Krausman that Mr. Tracy said, “yes” to “8, 9 or even 10 months” of severance in exchange for my resignation.
- At no time during the negotiations was I ever asked if I had job offers. Had it mattered, I would have been asked. Had it mattered, the contract would have been drafted so that if I became employed, the separation payments made to me would have ceased or been reduced if and when I obtained other employment. Contract language of that nature was never proposed because board president Tracy, and the other board members who voted in favor of the amendments to my contract, wanted to buyout my contract, hire a new superintendent and move forward.
- Furthermore, I provided the board, through board president Tracy and board attorney Krausman with sufficient information to put the board on notice that I was actively seeking other employment. I specifically told them I had private and public employment opportunities available to me if I resigned my employment before my contract expired in two years.
- Prior to the board’s final buyout offer approved on May 30, my references were being checked for positions since early April. (The district’s own lawsuit notes that I was a candidate for a position in Norfolk, Virginia.) I emailed president Tracy and the board that I was a candidate for other employment. In fact, the search firm hired for Oswego School District was the same firm for an earlier superintendent’s vacancy. I have been aware for some time that, in addition to other references, a current board member and two well-known Ankeny citizens were interviewed by the search firm used in two of the superintendent search processes for which I was a candidate, including Oswego School District.
- Just hours before the special school board meeting on May 30, I informed board attorney Krausman that if the Ankeny district was going to agree to amend my contract to include the transition allowance, my resignation date needed to be changed from July 6, 2012, to June 30, 2012. In addition, I asked board attorney Krausman whether I it was even possible for me to serve as a superintendent in two different school districts. Presumably, he informed the board of the change in my resignation date and my inquiry regarding the legality of being under two contracts.
- On May 30, the Ankeny Board of Education met in a closed-to-the-public strategy session to discuss a potential amendment to my employment contract and resignation letter. The board met in private with its attorney (Krausman) for more than an hour and a half. I was not in the room at any time during this closed-to-the-public strategy session. I was in my office and available to answer any questions the board might have believed important. At that point in time, I had a potential employment opportunity from a private consulting firm, a job offer from the Oswego School District, and a job with the Ankeny School District.
- When the closed-to-the-public strategy session finally ended, I was offered one year of severance pay in exchange for my resignation as part of a new three-year employment contract, which included a 3.25 percent base salary increase and an automatic increase to my annual annuity payment. My wife and I decided to take the resignation and severance because we believed—and still do—that it gave both sides what they wanted.
- I signed the employment contract with the Oswego Community Unit School District 308 on May 31, 2012. After District 308 publicized my hiring on June 1, 2012, neither Mr. Tracy nor Mr. Krausman contacted me to express a concern that I had somehow violated the terms of the amendment to my employment agreement. In fact, no one on the board communicated with me directly about any concerns regarding the resignation and approved contract amendment.