Horseshoe Bend’s troubles keep mounting

The former business manager for the Horseshoe Bend School District has been charged with four felony counts of misuse of public money, involving $53,000 of district funds over three years.

The ongoing Boise County court case, involving school leaders past and present, is just the latest setback for the small district 20 miles north of Boise, which has an enrollment of 230 and a staff of 40:

  • Horseshoe Bend has been without a superintendent for a year after the previous two superintendents resigned abruptly.
  • The IRS came calling this month, demanding more than $68,000 in unpaid payroll taxes dating back to 2012.
  • Last week, Horseshoe Bend’s two-year, $600,000 supplemental levy failed by just 22 votes. It was one of very few election losses statewide.

“It has been one thing after another and we’re hoping its about to end,” said Horseshoe Bend’s board chair Tina McDonald. “The crumbling … you have to learn from it. What else can you do?”

Trustees hope a district and community turnaround will begin with the hiring of a new superintendent. The job was posted Wednesday, the same day the district learned its $2 million annual budget will drop by $300,000 after the levy failed.

“All of this has been a blessing in disguise because we’ve received so much help and we’re becoming a much better district and board,” McDonald said. “We’ve become a very cohesive board and I feel I’m working with great people.”

The five volunteer trustees inherited Horseshoe Bend’s leadership and financial messes. The longest serving board member, Rachel Dale, has only been on the board three years. At her first meeting, then-superintendent John Cook resigned.

McDonald, whose background is in social work and restaurant management, has served three years on the board, the last two as chair.

“It’s been a tough couple of years but we’ve pulled out of it thanks to outside help,” McDonald said.

When troubles started to surface, McDonald said, help, training and advice came from the State Department of Education, the law firm of Eberharter Maki & Tappen and two long-time educators who contracted as interim superintendents this last year — Dan Arriola in the summer and fall of 2014 and Randy Schrader since the winter of 2014. Arriola had to quit contracting with the district because of a personal challenges.

Schrader, who has been helping with budget and compliance requirements, said he has advised the board to hire a permanent superintendent as soon as possible. The timeline is to have someone in place by the end of April and in time to lead another levy election in May.

“We have a huge responsibility in hiring our next leader,” McDonald said. “It is our community and this district defines the community.”

Horseshoe Bend has seen its share of financial and leadership problems.

Cook was placed on administrative leave and resigned days later in January 2012 amidst accusations of polygamy. Boise resident Don Reiman publicly shared that his daughter, Jana, was in a polygamous relationship with Cook. Cook’s wife and Jana were both, at times, employed by the district.

Without publicly opening the position, the board replaced Cook by promoting assistant superintendent Vicki Renfro, a long-time district employee. Renfro abruptly resigned in February 2014.

During this time, the sheriff’s department was investigating Greiner’s bookkeeping. Greiner had quit in the summer of 2013, and a new business manager questioned Greiner’s accounting. The board asked the sheriff’s department to investigate, which led to charges by the prosecutor’s office of four counts of misusing public moneys in September 2014.

“We only knew what the administration was telling us and if they said everything was fine, we believed it,” McDonald said. “We’ve learned the board can’t be kept in the dark and we now know what questions to ask.”

Cook and Renfro are both potential witnesses in the state’s case against Greiner, according to court documents.

Greiner’s next court appearance is scheduled for April 9. According to Boise County District Court documents, Greiner is charged with:

  • The unauthorized transfer of seven checks in the amount of $23,137.47 to his personal account, between April 2011 and July 2013.
  • Paying himself $12,300 more than his salary without authorization, in May 2011 and December 2011.
  • Taking $5,000 from a district bank account without authorization, in January 2012 and July 2012.
  • Issuing checks to himself, exceeding his salary by $12,720.53, between February 2012 and June 2013.

Greiner’s attorney Chuck Peterson did not return phone calls to Idaho Education News.

“There were warning signs that should have been caught by (the) administration,” McDonald said. “We now have in place a process where all transactions have to be signed or initialed by a board member.”

During Greiner’s time as business manager — when Cook and Renfro were superintendents — payroll taxes of more than $68,000 did not get paid to the IRS. The district will be able to pay the back taxes, McDonald said, thanks to $100,000 built into a contingency fund when Arriola drafted a district budget last summer.

But with the failed levy, the IRS bill and the superintendent’s search under way, the board will have to structure yet another budget in the coming days.

“This all leaves us very few options,” McDonald said.

Disclosure: Randy Schrader has contracted to help the Horseshoe Bend School District and he is a full-time employee with Idaho Education News.

Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over one million pageviews in 2019. Jennifer has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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