SHAKOPEE, Minn. - Former Shakopee Public Schools Superintendent Rod Thompson was arrested Tuesday and booked into jail following an investigation that began with a series of reports initiated by community members and the community newspaper, Shakopee Valley News.
"The local paper did an outstanding job in going in and uncovering some very good information that allowed the investigation to proceed the way it did," said Scott County Attorney Ron Hocevar. "It was very critical. Before that there was no reason to conduct an investigation."
Reporter Amanda McKnight said she began receiving tips from members of the "Concerned Citizens of Shakopee" Facebook page following a board meeting in March about the district's $4.5M budget shortfall. That's when she began investigating Thompson's use of a district-issued credit card.
"It all started with people coming to us with all these stories," McKnight said. "We had an obligation to look into this because they were really concerned."
Shakopee Police Chief Jeff Tate says the investigation revealed that Rod Thompson abused his credit card by purchasing $73,642 worth of personal items over a five-year period. Among the things investigators say he bought for himself are flights and hotels for a number of trips, tickets to the Grand Ole Opry, cowboy boots, sports memorabilia, jewelry, alcohol flasks, and more.
"People should be upset. I'm upset. What happened is wrong. He stole from taxpayers," said Chief Jeff Tate. "It got to a point where I just stopped being surprised."
The charges also included an alleged adoption swindle in which Thompson allegedly received more than $37,000 from a provision in his contract that would help him cover the cost of an adoption.
"He was reimbursed for several checks, checks that never came out of his account, never went into an adoption agency," Tate said. "So he essentially stole that money in advance."
Tate emphasized that state statute only allowed investigators to go back five years into Thompson's personal spending records.
"With the purchase history that we had... I think there would be more beyond the five years," Tate said.
Thompson's contract was terminated by the district this summer.
On Tuesday afternoon the Shakopee Public Schools released a statement following news of Thompson's arrest.
"The allegations surrounding former Superintendent Thompson have taken their toll on the entire staff and community. They are not only disturbing but, if true, clearly reflect inappropriate conduct. Over the summer, the Shakopee School Board voted to terminate the district’s contractual relationship with Thompson, effective June 30, 2017."