Updated 9 p.m. Tuesday
Former Shakopee Superintendent Rod Thompson allegedly coerced a construction company into renovating his basement for free and received several other benefits from companies working with the school district, according to a notice of evidence recently filed in Scott County District Court.
Thompson is awaiting trial in November on 21 criminal charges alleging he embezzled nearly $74,000 over five years from the school district.
The court document outlines a pattern of evidence the prosecution hopes to use at trial against Thompson, though he has not been charged with any of the allegations. The judge has not accepted the evidence presented in the document and will make a determination before trial as to whether it can be used.
“It’s full of half-truths. They can continue to pile on as much as they want," Peter Wold, Thompson's attorney, said Tuesday afternoon.
Renovations, hotel stays, events
According to the court document, a small, unnamed construction company was doing work for the Shakopee School District while Thompson was superintendent, and Thompson allegedly asked the company to help him renovate the basement of his home. Over time, he asked for work on multiple occasions until the entire project was complete, including a new concrete slab in the backyard, fencing, mechanical work and plumbing.
When the company billed Thompson for the work, he allegedly became angry, refused to pay, and threatened to ruin the company's reputation in the industry and with the Shakopee School Board. The school contract was important to the small company, the court document states, so the company was coerced into paying for the improvements to Thompson's home, which he allegedly never paid back. He also never reported the renovations as a gift, income or conflict, according to the document.
In April 2017, the Valley News asked Thompson if a district-contracted company had renovated his basement office. Thompson denied the existence of a basement office. When pressed about other renovations to his home, Thompson denied those too.
According to the court document, Thompson "demanded" that same company pay for a Nashville hotel stay so he could have a "special trip for his wife." The company felt it had no choice so it booked the hotel room.
Thompson also allegedly asked the same construction company to purchase event tickets for him on more than one occasion. "(The company) felt like it had no choice but to buy the tickets, so it did," court documents state.
The company purchased four tickets to a Timberwolves game for Thompson, and paid for a table of six to 10 people to attend the Ultimate Fighting Championships at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel. The court document alleges there were "many such requests" during Thompson's time as superintendent.
Thompson used his personal email, email@example.com, to make the requests for tickets. He was charged with three misdemeanors and one gross misdemeanor last month for using that same email address to access school district files as recently as May.
Personal loans for adoption expenses
Thompson allegedly received $26,900 in personal "loans" from Thomas Laufenberg, co-owner of ECM Holding Group, which is based in Wisconsin. Thompson had previously worked with Laufenberg, who said he gave the loans to Thompson to help with Thompson's adoption, according to the court document.
Thompson's 2014-2017 contract with the school district included a $30,000 adoption benefit, allowing him to pay for adoption-related costs up front and be reimbursed up to $30,000 by the district. Thompson is already charged with committing fraud via this benefit. Court documents allege Thompson was submitting copies of checks for reimbursement that he claimed to have written from his checking account to the Adoption Network Law Center. However, none of those checks were submitted to Adoption Network Law Center; none of Thompson’s checks were cashed.
The recent court filing alleges Laufenberg gave Thompson four personal loans ranging from $4,500 to $9,600. Thompson has not paid back the loans, the filing states.
There was also a fifth check from ECM Holding Group to "Rod Thompson - Shakopee Chamber of Commerce" for $500.
Thompson never reported the money as income or a gift, nor did he report it as a possible conflict, the filing states.
Laufenberg has not yet returned a phone call seeking comment.
During this time period, the filing alleges, Thompson used his position as superintendent to get the district to give Laufenberg construction contracts, and they did so. Laufenberg also received referral fees from Heartland when Heartland began doing work for the district during this time period, the prosecutor alleges.
Heartland is a company that does construction for the school district. According to the court document, Heartland gave tickets to a Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers game in Wisconsin in 2015. Thompson never reported the gift and used his position as superintendent to encourage the district to give Heartland contracts, which Thompson also admitted did not look good, the document states.
Heartland has not responded to a request for comment.
APEX is a construction company that does work for Shakopee schools. According to the court document, Thompson used an APEX-owned vacation home to stay in Sturgis, South Dakota, for free. He allegedly never reported the gift.
Thompson used his position as superintendent to encourage the district to give APEX contracts, which Thompson admitted did not look very good, according to the document.
APEX has not responded to a request for comment.
Tim's Landscaping is a small company that plowed snow for the school district. Thompson allegedly wanted the company to plow his personal driveway and bill the district for it, but the company refused.
The company has not yet responded to a phone call seeking comment.
Nearly one year ago, Shakopee police said the FBI was investigating whether Thompson got kickbacks from at least three companies that won contracts with the school district, beginning shortly after he was hired in 2011.
"Thompson admitted to accepting vacations and trips from two companies that had received contracts with ISD 720,” said an affidavit by Shakopee Detective Jim Blatzheim filed July 19, 2017.
Asked about possible kickbacks at the time, Shakopee Police Chief Jeff Tate said only, “The FBI is assisting us in this investigation; they’ve got a specific area they’re focusing on.”
The FBI does not generally confirm or deny investigations, and continued to do so Tuesday in this case.