The Shakopee School District is fighting the public release of an independent investigation into the district’s “operational health” — otherwise known as “the NeuVest report.”
The investigation, which the school board spent $72,000 on, was launched in 2017, as questions swirled around former Shakopee Superintendent Rod Thompson.
Thompson was later charged with making 305 personal purchases totaling over $30,000 with his district credit card between November 2014 and May 2017. Among the purchases were sports memorabilia, personal memberships, an XBox, motorcycle jewelry, clothing, alcohol flasks and travel expenses.
When the 364-page NeuVest report was released in August 2017, most of it was redacted, and then it became evidence in the police investigation into Thompson, who was recently sentenced to two years in federal prison for swindling and embezzlement from the Shakopee School District.
The NeuVest report was to be released to the Valley News today, but wasn't due to a disagreement about privacy laws between the police department and the school district, Shakopee Police Chief Jeff Tate said.
“There are differing opinions on whether the report is public,” Tate said. “The school district believes there’s confidentiality in that report.”
On May 30, the school district’s attorney, Stephen Knutson, sent a letter to Tate stating “the police department is prohibited from providing the complete unredacted report to the public” because of private data contained in it. A June 13 response letter from Sarah Sonsalla, the police department’s attorney, said because the report is in the hands of the city, and the investigation is complete, the report should be made public.
“It is my understanding that Mr. Thompson has plead guilty to and has been sentenced for his crimes,” the letter says. “Therefore… all investigative data are public as there is no ongoing investigation that would be jeopardized by the release.”
Knutson pushed back, saying because the NeuVest report contains private information under the jurisdiction of the school district, that privacy also applies to the police department.
“Data in the hands of a law enforcement agency that are classified as private under other statutes retain its private classification under those statutes even after the investigation has become inactive.”
The police department and the school district made a request to the Minnesota Department of Administration for an advisory opinion on the release of the full report, Tate said.
Shakopee Superintendent Mike Redmond released a statement saying, “Shakopee Public Schools is working diligently to avoid violation of data privacy laws. These data privacy laws are complex and violation of the laws is a very serious legal offense that carries stiff penalties. The school district is currently making a joint request, along with the city of Shakopee, to obtain an opinion on this data privacy matter from the Minnesota Department of Administration. This opinion to be issued by the Department of Administration will bring closure on this matter.”
The release of the report will be deferred until the advisory opinion is issued.
"The attorneys are working through this and we’ll see where it goes," Tate said.