Updated 7:27 p.m. Tuesday
Former Shakopee Superintendent Rod Thompson was charged today in U.S. District Court with corruptly soliciting a bribe.
After an investigation by the FBI, U.S. Attorney Erica H. MacDonald today announced the filing of a felony information charging Thompson with one count of corrupt solicitation of a bribe. He will make his initial appearance in U.S. District Court later.
Thompson's pending court dates in Scott County District Court, including a plea hearing scheduled for Tuesday and his upcoming trial, have been postponed. Thompson was scheduled to appear in court on state charges he embezzled nearly $74,000 over five years from the school district. Scott County Attorney Ron Hocevar was not immediately available for comment.
According to the federal charging document, Thompson used his position and authority as superintendent from 2011 to June 2017 to obtain personal benefits from a company interested in being awarded contracts with the Shakopee School District. Namely, he solicited home improvement projects, personal travel, and attendance at sporting events in exchange for contracts with the school district, the feds allege.
The charging document alleges Thompson demanded that a company that provided construction management services to the school district — which was not named — remodel the basement of his house from July 2012 to November 2015. The company also allegedly paid a contractor to install a concrete patio slab outside Thompson's walk-out basement. The company spent $44,422 remodeling and improving Thompson's home in Shakopee, and Thompson refused to pay the company for any of the work, according to the charges.
Between November 2009 and September 2016, Thompson allegedly sent bills to the company for sporting events and recreational travel "for Thompson's personal consumption that had no connection to the legitimate business of the school district." The company paid for more than $5,000 in tickets to Vikings, Timberwolves and Twins games, martial arts events and a stay at a luxury hotel in Nashville during a personal trip, the charging documents say.
In September 2012, Thompson told a principal of the company that the company would have to pay the expenses if the company wanted to be awarded contracts with the district. Indeed, during Thompson's tenure as superintendent, the company was awarded contracts "with a value that substantially exceeded the amounts" Thompson made the company pay for his personal use, the feds allege.
The federal charge applies if someone corruptly solicits or demands for the benefit of any person, or accepts or agrees to accept anything of value from any person intending to be influenced or rewarded in connection with any business, transaction, or series of transactions of such organization, government, or agency involving any thing of value of $5,000 or more. Violations can bring fines and imprisonment of up to 10 years under federal law.
The feds allege Thompson is subject to forfeiture of property, real or personal, "which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable" to the violations alleged. If such property is not available, the feds intend to seek forfeiture of substitute property, according to the charging document.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David J. MacLaughlin is prosecuting the case.
The federal charges are the result of a 16-month long FBI investigation into Thompson's relationships with companies the Shakopee School District did business with.
In July, the Valley News reported on a Scott County District Court filing alleging Thompson coerced a construction company into renovating his basement for free and received several other benefits from companies working with the school district.
The court document was filed as part of the county attorney's swindling and embezzlement case against Thompson.
The Shakopee School District released a statement Tuesday in response to the federal charge.
"We are appreciative of the due diligence put forth by federal authorities in this case. The information revealed during the investigations — local and federal — against Thompson have been challenging for both the district and school community at large," said district spokesperson Ashley McCray. "While the entire investigation surrounding Thompson has impacted our district by taking the focus away from the excellent work of our staff and students, we are optimistic for our future and hopeful that this long and difficult process will soon conclude."