Friday, June 8, 2012

(NEVADA CO) Civil Grand Jury takes issue former GV school supes' salary (Update)

by Chris Rosacker -

The Nevada County civil grand jury released a report Thursday claiming Grass Valley School District's former superintendent, Jon Byerrum, received unauthorized salary increases that should not have been included in the calculations of his retirement compensation.

The jurors' report notes Byerrum received a salary increase to $134,227 in the summer of 2008, however, this nearly $13,000 raise was not on any of the school board of trustee's agendas or minutes and none of its members recalled discussing, granting or voting on the matter.

Instead, as the jury report states, an Item LL appears on copies of the June 10, 2008, agenda and subsequent minutes that simply indicate unanimous approval of a 4 percent increase to the superintendent's salary.

Prior to his June 2010 retirement, Byerrum's 2008 pay raise was retroactive to July 2007. His June 2007 pay raise to $116,720 was also retroactive to July 2006, according to the Civil Grand Jury report.

Additionally, the jurors reported Byerrum instructed the district's business manager, Gail Headstrom, in a June 2006 email to discontinue his medical benefits and instead allocate him $5,613.60 of yearly in-lieu pay, even though his contract did not allow for cash in lieu of receiving medical benefits.

The district's business manager at that time followed the superintendent's instructions and the in-lieu pay was included as part of Byerrum's salary, along with his 2008 raise, for the purpose of calculating his retirement compensation, the jury report states.

Both the unauthorized raise and in-lieu pay “should not have been included in the calculations of (Byerrum's) retirement compensation,” the civil grand jury report concludes.

“This has resulted in the former superintendent receiving retirement benefits to which he is not entitled and increased retirement fund liabilities to the Grass Valley School District,” the report states.

Byerrum could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The civil grand jury recommends the district notify the California State Teachers' Retirement System of the unauthorized salary increases included in the retirement calculations.

The district has until Sept. 4 to respond to the Civil Grand Jury report.

“(T)he district will respond to the report in accordance with the grand jury's instructions,” reads a statement from Grass Valley School District. “In the interim, no further comment on the report, its findings or recommendations, will be issued by the Board until its official response is finalized and submitted to the Grand Jury.”

Reached by phone Thursday afternoon, current Superintendent Eric Fredrickson said he could not comment on the matter. Nor would school board President Paula Roediger, as she indicated in an email to The Union.

California is the only state that convenes a civil grand jury, a practice traced back as far as the Norman conquest of England in 1066, according to Nevada County Superior Court's website.

The Nevada County grand jury consists of 19 county residents who volunteer and investigate day-to-day operations of government agencies within the county and consider how to improve the overall functioning of governmental entities.

Its members serve for one year and have the power to subpoena citizens and documents in the course of an investigation.

On top of the former superintendent's payment and retirement, the jurors also took issue with two administrative assistant positions.

In 2007, the district's board of trustees created the positions of Administrative Assistant I and Administrative Assistant II in 2009, the jurors noted which were held by Betty Benthin. However, the district has not yet defined job duties and responsibilities for these positions as of April 15, 2012.

“The promotion of and increase in salary for an individual into an undefined position demonstrates a lack of management and fiscal responsibility by the Board,” concluded the jurors.

Additionally, promoting an individual with an accompanying salary increase, retroactive for one year, one week prior to their retirement creates the impression of “pension spiking,” the jurors reported.

A copy of the civil grand jury's report can be found by visiting, clicking on this story.

To contact Staff Writer Chris Rosacker, email or call (530) 477-4236

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