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Dec 2015 Issue
Introduction
Part One: State of Corruption
Part Two: County Crooks
Part Three: Bad Neighbors

Articles on this Site
Related Articles:
Stolen Votes
Rotten Districts

J.J.Rizzo: Saga of a Party Prince

Why Some Votes Are More Equal Than Others

Other Articles:
Upside-Down Democracy
The Bureaucracy of Politics
A Lack of Kander


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This Article's Sources
St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
short on Critchlow's salary
news of nepotism rules
lawyer letters
libel suit subpeona
Topix comments traced
Critchlow replaced
Baker demoted, others retire
State audit begins
internal audit results
Pearson hires Critchlow

Fox C-6 Watchdogs
(Simpson blog):
on administrative salaries
on transparency & spending
on Dan Baker deal

Missouri Education Watchdog
Brazeal meeting summary

Topix controversial discussion
CBS/KMOX Baker fallout
KSDK credit card scandal

Missouri's Poli-Ticks
December 2015 Bi-Monthly Edition
Volume One, Part Three

Liar Liar

Queen Critchlow
Dianne Critchlow, Superintendent of Fox School District

December 2nd, 2015
by Jon Schuessler

Introduction | Part One | Part Two | Part Three

The Charges: Corruption, Libel, Destroying Public Records, Nepotism, Fraud
The Accusers: Citizens of Arnold, various news agencies, CFO John Brazeal

Overview:

Dianne Critchlow, before her early retirement, was being paid a public salary of $260,000. Including perks, the Fox school district was paying her $337,000 overall. She was the 3rd-highest paid school official in Missouri.

Yet it wasn’t enough.

Four Arnold residents – Rich Simpson, Dan Mueller, Sam Ferry, and Michelle Tyler questioned nepotism in the district and a lack of financial transparency. They made numerous requests for public records, which were routinely denied. They also joined an online Topix discussion about nepotism in the Fox school district.

In early 2013, the district’s lawyers sent out threatening letters informing them that their behavior qualified as harassment.

During the same time, anonymous people posted false stories about three of the four critics (Mueller was not included), claiming that they kept child pornography and were sexually depraved. The three targeted citizens hired a lawyer and filed a libel suit. In 2014, under the power of a subpoena, the posts were traced back to their source.

The liars were traced to the home computers of Superintendent Dianne Critchlow, as well as her husband and director of the Bridges Alternative School, Jamie Critchlow. The traces also led back to Dan Baker, the Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education, and his wife, assistant principal and Federal Programs Manager Angela Baker.

This discovery lead to a media frenzy and a full-blown scandal for Fox schools. Soon, everyone was interested in the district’s finances. It didn’t take long for investigators to uncover that Critchlow had been abusing the school credit card. She had used it for personal meals, golf trips, and even to pay off a red-light ticket.

The corruption ran much deeper, however. Critchlow’s administration had somehow lost millions of dollars. Because of poor recordkeeping, the responsible parties were unknown. To top it off, Critchlow’s husband had been hired as director of an at-risk program for $124,000 a year.

When Critchlow had asked the Fox School Board for her quarter-million-dollar salary, she had explained that you must pay for quality.

Honesty, apparently, wasn’t one the qualities she was describing.

(Click here for a news short about Critchlow's salary)
(Click here to read Simpson's blog criticizing the district)
(Click here to read Simpson attacking nepotism in the district)
(Click here for the long Topix thread that started the controversy)
(Click here for the story covering the letters sent to stop 'harassment' of the district)
(Click here for the story of the libel suit phone traces)
(Click here for the coverage of the Brazeal internal audit)
(Click here for the story of Critchlow's credit card purchases)

The Aftermath:

An internal audit by the new CFO, John Brazeal, revealed a $7 million shortfall for the next year’s budget, forcing the school to make cutbacks. The auditor explained that financial details were hard to find, because Critchlow’s administration had altered or destroyed many key documents.

Critchlow’s husband was fired in June of 2014.

Critchlow protests her innocence concerning the lies posted about the three critical taxpayers. Her attorney claims that she considered suing the district.

The Board paid incentives totaling just under $3.6 million for 128 employees to leave. They also bought out Critchlow’s contract one year early, paying her over $220,000 to leave, including unused sick time, vacation time, and an annuity. All of the replacement administrators were hired at a lower salary.

Dianne Critchlow is facing no criminal action.

The Critchlows petitioned to transfer the libel suit to a federal court, which has delayed the trial for a year and a half.

Meanwhile, Dianne Critchlow has been hired by Pearson, a multi-billion-dollar testing corporation, to oversee the integrity of its state MAP tests in Missouri schools. The state’s education department (DESE) approved her for the job.

Despite his role in the libel scandal, Dan Baker was retained by the district – although not in his former position. He was appointed the principal of Seckman Elementary School. His salary remains around $150,000.

Angela Baker was put on two weeks’ leave without pay, but otherwise remains with the district. Her annual salary is over $100,000.

CFO Brazeal urged the school board to request a state audit, which they did. The audit began late in 2014 and was scheduled to be released in September of 2015.

It is still in progress.

(Click here for a summary of Brazeal's findings to the public)
(Click here for Fox's history of nepotism, policy changes)
(Click here for story of Critchlow's retirement)
(Click here for Dianne Critchlow's hiring by Pearson)
(Click here for district's retention of the Bakers)
(Click here for Simpson's research into Dan Baker's salary)
(Click here for Brazeal's success in getting a state audit)



Continue to Next Article | Back to Part Three

Jon Schuessler is a Volunteer leader in Jefferson County, and the chairman for Missouri Volunteers for Government Reform, a Political Action Committee (PAC) of the Volunteer Movement. Click here to read his bio or contact him.

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