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Duluth School Board OKs separation deal with CFO

Duluth School Board members agreed Monday, in a reluctant 4-2 vote, to a tentative “resignation and release” deal with chief financial officer Doug Hasler.

From the few remarks they made, the members who voted yes during a brief early afternoon public meeting appeared to be only slightly happier about it than those who voted against. The vote came in a brief early afternoon meeting that followed an hourlong closed session.

“It’s the most reasonable offer we had,” said board member Alanna Oswald, who offered the motion. “I find no satisfaction in it.”

According to the terms of the agreement read by Tim Sworsky, the school district’s senior human resources manager, Hasler would receive $63,817 in financial compensation and $12,220 worth of “non-salaried benefits.”

Sworsky later said the agreement will not become effective until 15 days after the vote. Moreover, Hasler has 21 days to accept or reject it, he said.

Hasler’s name was never mentioned during the public portion of the meeting, but Sworsky confirmed afterwards that the “highly compensated employee” who was its subject was Hasler.

Hasler has been employed by the school district since fall 2016. He was placed on administrative leave on June 18.

Although declining at the time to comment on the reason for Hasler’s leave, Superintendent Bill Gronseth has said that inconsistencies had been discovered between the preliminary budget approved earlier in the spring and its final iteration.

The board ended up having to pass a bare-bones version of a budget late last week. Not passing a budget by July 1 would have meant the state wouldn’t send the district its allocated money and spending would have come to a standstill.

An outside financial firm has been hired to help prepare a detailed budget.

Board members Josh Gorham, David Kirby and Rosie Loeffler-Kemp joined Oswald in voting for the motion. Board members Nora Sandstad and Sally Trnka voted no. Board member Jill Lofald was absent.

Sandstad, who complained at a meeting last month about the lack of a budget, vented her frustration before the votes were cast on Monday.

“We’re weighing financials, we’re weighing trust, we’re weighing the perception of this in the community,” Sandstad said. “And I’m pretty mad about this.”

Asked to elaborate following the meeting, Sandstad said that because it was a personnel matter, she couldn’t comment further.

Hasler previously worked as executive director of support services for a school district in Elkhart, Ind. He has degrees from the University of Notre Dame and Indiana University Bloomington.

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