Des Moines School Board silent on Tom Ahart's $400K severance agreement
Despite resigning a year early, Des Moines superintendent Tom Ahart will walk away from the school district with the full compensation he would've received through 2023, according to a severance agreement with the school board.
- That includes a $306,193 salary, $7,200 car and cell phone allowance and his $84,019 taxpayer-provided retirement annuity, as first reported by Randy Evans, a transparency advocate and executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council.
Why it matters: School board members, who negotiated and approved the agreement, have been silent on the matter — leaving the public in the dark as to why Ahart will receive at least a $400,000 payout at a time the district says it needs to cut more than $9 million.
State of play: On March 2, the board held a two-minute special session where they approved the agreement with zero discussion.
- The six-page agreement details how Ahart will be paid out the remainder of his contract and outlines several requirements, including a positive reference letter from the board.
The intrigue: The agreement was signed by Ahart on Feb. 22 — a week before he even made his formal resignation announcement.
- Plus: Based on its terms, he could actually make more money not working for the district next year.
Under the agreement's terms:
- Ahart could make more money not working for the district next year.
- All inquiries about Ahart's employment and resignation must be referred to a "mutually agreeable" statement from both parties.
- Both parties are prohibited from suing each other.
Plus: Ahart is required to assist DMPS if legal action arises related to events that occurred during his tenure, which could occur after he defied the state's requirement for in-person classes.
- Under this scenario, his compensation would be $147 an hour.
What they're saying: School board president Dwana Bradley declined to speak to Axios about the agreement due to legal reasons, and instead referred to a previous statement.
Meanwhile, Evans told Axios the board's brief meeting signals that the details of the agreement were already decided on behind closed doors.
- "The public had no opportunity for input," he said.
The bottom line: By deciding on the agreement away from the public eye, Des Moines taxpayers will never learn if Ahart’s pay is justified or not, Evans said.
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