Authorities investigating possible violations of state laws by former charter school director

BLACKFOOT — Authorities are investigating retired Blackfoot charter school administrator Fred Ball, at the behest of the county prosecutor.

“We have requested some agencies to investigate the issue, and we are waiting to see the results,” Bingham County Prosecutor Paul Rogers told Idaho Education News.

The investigation marks the latest chapter in the ongoing saga involving finances at Ball’s former schools, Bingham Academy and Blackfoot Charter Community Learning Center.

Fred Ball

On May 28, Public Charter School Commission chairman Alan Reed wrote a letter to Rogers, saying that he thought Ball might have violated Idaho’s bribery and corrupt influence laws and other state codes. Reed’s letter followed a $20,000 forensic audit, requested by the commission, focusing on transactions involving modular classrooms at the schools. Idaho Education News first wrote about these transactions in January.

  • Ball received a $16,000 reimbursement from Blackfoot in 2017. In December 2018, Ball told EdNews that he personally purchased two modulars from Salt Lake Community College, and resold them for the “spectacularly low price” of $16,000 or “what he had into them.” Documentation for the $16,000 transaction was “incomplete,” Reed wrote in his letter to Rogers.
  • Salt Lake Community College officials told EdNews that the college has no record of a purchase with Ball. Instead, documents show that the college sold at least one modular directly to Bingham Academy in December 2013, for $2,000.
  • Bingham Academy wrote a $12,000 check to “Somewhere in the Middle,” a former band of which Ball’s son was a member. The forensic audit of both schools revealed that Bingham paid the band to transport modulars sometime in 2014. “The school has not been able to produce documentation supporting this transaction,” Reed wrote.

Rogers said he asked several unidentified agencies to investigate the matter.

“Financial investigations take outside resources to gather all of the relevant material, and from the onset of the reports, it sounded to me like there is potential to have to investigate any financially related activity,” Rogers said.

Rogers expects the investigation to take “quite some time.”

Ball retired from both schools in June.

Charter commission also under investigation

Meanwhile, the attorney general’s office is investigating a series of complaints against the commission.

The complaints stem from a controversial closed-door commission meeting, in which commission members discussed low performance and financial “malpractice” at some charter schools. At one point, Reed voiced regret for allowing one charter school, Heritage Academy in Jerome, to remain open.

The commission inadvertently released a recording of the meeting following a public records request.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden received four complaints about the meeting, questioning whether the commission had violated Idaho’s open meeting law.

The commission is comprised of appointees selected by the governor and legislative leaders. It is the authorizing body for most of Idaho’s public charter schools, including Heritage, Blackfoot and Bingham.

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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