Graves Responds with All-Staff E-Mail to “Unfortunate” Blog Post About His Federal-Grant Windfall

Yesterday I reported that Mitchell school superintendent Joseph Graves pocketed $157,500 administering a federal history-teaching grant funneled through the accountability-challenged Mid-Central Educational Cooperative. Today Superintendent Graves takes to the Mitchell paper to call that blog post “unfortunate“:

Graves said he found out about the blog post from a friend Tuesday, and described it as “unfortunate.”

“There were no issues here,” he said. “This whole thing that occurred at Mid-Central was a tragic and troubling incident, but it really had nothing to do with this” [Candy DenOuden, “Graves Defends Work with Federal Grant Program,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2015.09.30].

Graves found my report so unfortunate that he felt compelled to send all Mitchell school district staff (but not this blog, strangely enough) an e-mail explaining the work he did for that money:

…Graves said his administrative duties included negotiating contracts with the universities, arranging for speakers and forums over the course of the year and facilitating trips to “historically important sites” in places like Boston, Washington, D.C., and the South.

“Frankly, I’m proud of the job I did on these grants and the many teachers I assisted over the years,” he wrote to school officials. “Thus, I did not feel then nor do I feel now that I did anything wrong” [DenOuden, 2015.09.30].

Blog readers and critics should note that while Graves may find my report “unfortunate,” he can’t find it wrong. Nothing in DenOuden’s report calls into question any of the facts I reported yesterday, including the most salient fact, that Dr. Graves found a way to squeeze at least 16% of a million-dollar federal grant into administrative overhead.

25 Responses to Graves Responds with All-Staff E-Mail to “Unfortunate” Blog Post About His Federal-Grant Windfall

  1. Porter Lansing

    As is said in PoliSci … if you’re explainin’, you’re losin’

  2. If I were a member of the Mitchell School Board, you can bet I’d be scanning that contract line by line to ensure I understood if Graves was in violation of said contract. Most companies have polices against moonlighting when a second job is so similar in nature to the primary one. Had Graves been earning a few bucks selling hand-made picture frames at flea markets then it wouldn’t be an issue, but chances are he was answering emails and phone calls as well as scheduling speakers etc. during his normal working hours.

    Does anyone actually believe he waited until after 5:00 to conduct any business for Mid-Central and that all of his contract negotiations occurred outside of his normal work hours for the Mitchell School District? Let’s be real for a moment – he was double-dipping and now he is caught. It is time to reevaluate his employment, because he has known his loyalty aligns with the paycheck rather than the district.

  3. Unfortunate? I would remind Mr. Graves that there are several ways of looking at the word in which he tries to hide behind.
    Definition of unfortunate:

    I like unlucky as it shows that he was unlucky to find that his secret money funnel has been exposed. The republican gouge continues while crooks and liars direct money into their baggy pants with little to no regard of the damage they do to the entire social system. Shame on them, but shame on us for not putting these outlaws out of reach of our money.

  4. mike from iowa

    Not a single word spoken to dispute Master’s veracity,but then most of us democrat posters here assume the worst about wingnuts because that is what Cory wants us to think,I think. Did I get that right Daniel B?

  5. Bill Fleming

    Perhaps Grave’s best defense would be to demonstrate that arrangements like this are common practice among school superintendents and that his peers in other school districts are doing the same or similar things. Is that possible? Is Graves just the tip of the iceberg here? Is a job like that a ticket to the gravy train ride, Cory? Or did this guy just get caught with his hand in the cookie jar?

  6. i wonder how many consultant or grant writer jobs former sioux falls superindentent pam hoeman had during her time on the job.

  7. Disgusted Dakotan

    Interesting.. long time establishment apologist getting caught with his hand in the establishment cookie jar.

    Maybe Marty Jackley can do an investigation to see (cover-up) him doing his grant job while he was supposed to be doing his supt job? You know like he did for Pat Powers?

  8. Donald Pay

    Yeah, I’ve done similar tasks for free, but then I was a sucker for a good cause. I would not expect someone to donate their time. Was there an effort to put this out on bid to a history teacher? I just think $50,000 per year is a bit much for what couldn’t have been more than 5 hours per week.

    As a former RCAS board member, I would frown on extra-curricular activities by my Super, unless it was part of his contract or he cleared it previously with the school board. If a Superintendent is doing his or her job, it takes more than a full-time effort.

  9. Daniel Buresh

    Not wrong Corey, just phrased in a manner to suggest some sort of malfeasance on his part. Pocketed, funneled…..words that have an implication of dishonesty. You are calling him out for his work and compensation while knowing very little about it. And Yes Mike, he chose those words for a reason, so the rest of you can chomp at the bit speculating about all the possibilities. You guys either have to be right, or there is a big conspiracy making sure the truth doesn’t get out so you can still feel you are right. I find it entertaining to watch and see what everyone comes up with.

  10. mike from iowa

    And as an aside to wingnut responsiblity wingnut from California,Kevin McCarthy finally admitted the Benghazi witch hunt was all done to damage Clinton as a Potus candidate. Nothing more,nothing less.

  11. Roger Cornelius


    Maybe EB-5 and this most recent scam of Indian education money isn’t a conspiracy, but it sure seems to be ‘standard operating procedure’ for the SDGOP.

    I would wager we could bring in outside auditors and find financial abuse in every department of state government. As Bill Fleming suggested, is Joop Bollen and Graves just the tip of the ice berg.

  12. David Newquist

    I am flummoxed by the handling of these federal grants. They have become part of a structural graft that may be involved with a change of rules regarding audits of federal money. Over the years I have been involved in many grant-financed programs in academia. In applying for a grant, one had to supply a precise plan for how the grant would be administered in terms of defining the project directors with an explanation of their qualifications, an exact description of their duties, an identification of a finance organization that would handle the funds, and a program evaluator who would report on the efficiency and effectiveness of the program. Sometimes the grants would ask for an expert to advise and facilitate the ad;ministering of the grant. I do not recall any grant involving multiple directors acting as a board or many people who were administrators overseeing the grant. The emphasis in the grant proposals was on people who had the qualifications for specific work to be done. As I read the accounts of disbursements of these grants, I am struck by the fact that had we ever included such generous stipends for advisory work, we would have been laughed at and rejected.

    In addition, there was a standard reporting form to account for how many participants in a program were served, who they were, and how the grant would produce specific benefits, which it was the job of the evaluator to confirm.

    Of course the ultimate irony is that our teaching corps is shaping along at the bottom of the national pay scale, while administrators are reaping extra-curricular stipends that equal the total pay of 5 average teachers. The situation is very much that of CEOs and the w working people over whom they preside. In accounting for these expenditures, it would be informing to note just how many teachers and students derived benefits from these grants and in just what way. Where are the evaluations?

  13. Delighted that you are entertained Daniel B. Just keep voting republican and you will be satisfied with the current drip of corrupted politics to go along with the theft er misappropriations of federal tax dollars. You seem to be okay with putting your cash into these grants that really did what? For whom? I am sure that you feel Joop got a bad deal out of the EB-5 so why don’t you crowd fund him for even more entertainment.

  14. rollin potter

    Hey folks, Does MR. Melmer’s job and pay check at the university of south Dakota and his checks from MCEC have the same wrong doing as graves and a few other as yet unannounced
    parasites are receiving???????

  15. Where is the Mitchell Republic on this looking into his contract, board minutes and such. Oh thats right, they only report/investigate on the Huron School District.

  16. Craig Guymon

    Are professional and personal ties to SD Regime allies and MSD 17-2 board members, protecting Supt Joe’s backside from being investigated for having violated statute and/or contract imposed mandates?

    Do the TAH grant program facts combined with Supt Joe’s Sept 29, 2015 email confession, document beyond a preponderance of the evidence that his involvement with the TAH grant program breached MDS 17-2 employment contract imposed job performance mandates due to Dr. Joe Graves being hired by MCEC as an independent consultant to administer two TAH grants?

    Given the professional status of Dr. Joe Graves, superintendent of schools for a public school district, the job performance evaluation of Supt Joe Graves does not have to take place behind closed doors in executive session; his job performance is not protected by executive session privileges. In Oct 2015 during a MSD 17-2 Board of Education public meeting, in open session the Board needs to be presented with an agenda item to consider whether Supt Joe’s involvement with MCEC’s TAH grant program breached MSD 17-2 employment contract imposed job performance mandates in any way, shape, manner or form; board resolution needs to require roll call vote for this agenda item.

    Today, Daily Republic quoted Supt Joe stating, “… he directed two separate TAH grants.” My reading of CAH’s posted statements was that the $157,500 for independent admin consulting fees and $19,502.60 for supplies, travel and postage paid to Supt Joe was tied to the 2010 awarded TAH Grant – “SD — PLATTE — Mid Central Educational Cooperative, Joseph Graves,, $964,871″. Term for TAH Grant #2 – how many years? How much was the total award for TAH Grant #2? How much was Supt Joe paid in admin consulting fees and reimbursed for incurred expense under the TAH Grant #2 Supt?

    Is there is any “Double – Dipping” gravy-train small print in Supt Joe’s employment contract? If not, then Supt Joe’s willingness to breach employment contract; and having done so repeatedly for at least 3years displays a lack of integrity and candor. How many other MSD 17-2 contracts has Supt Joe Breached? Memory says Supt Joe tried to amend a MSD 17-2 contract by magically injecting his swill into the contract language, but was told by a SD Labor Judge to stop attempting to practice law w/o a license to do so?

    Do to Supt Joe’s demonstrated lack of “honorable core values”; immediate termination of Supt Joe’s MSD 17-2 contract is warranted.

    Badger, Out!

  17. Come on Cory…with the embarrassing paltry salaries we are paying our teachers…who can blame educators for picking up a few extra bucks on the side to make ends meet.

    Ouch….there is that pain in my cheek from my tongue again.

    Way to go government….leading by example…and dare I say, hypocracy? Wouldn’t it be interesting to know how many professional educators will qualify for Medicaid Expansion in SD?

  18. Daniel, I appreciate your effort to bring an alternative viewpoint, but I would maintain that every word I use, while bothersome to those who defend the corrupt status quo, is perfectly accurate. It’s not a wild conspiracy theory to suggest that certain rich, powerful, establishment-friendly figures are accessing federal money to make themselves richer and more powerful.

  19. Whose idea, at Mitchell Daily Republic, that they, the Republic, should launch such a detailed investigation into the Huron Superintendents’ contracts? Local papers that live in glass houses should not throw stones.

    After 15 years as Super in Mitchell, with a hand picked Board, the people all over the state now must realize that even Super Joe learned that he could fool all the people some of the time, some of the people all the time but not all the people all of the time! That is not my original thought but an old tale I have heard all my life.

  20. Is it not sop to hire highly qualified (highly paid) assistants to do all the work leaving the ex. dir. or super ect. relatively free with his/her time to cover all the more esoteric and PR type chores and to, evidently, carry on 2nd careers as consultants to pad an already high-paid executive salary? salaries are usually contemplated to compensate for ALL of the executive’s time, 24/7 required by highly demanding leadership positions. but That is hard work!

    result: the highly paid, spec’ed-out executive position costs the public double and then some, paying both the executive AND the assistant, leaving the top dog the freedom to join state-wide boards of directors in search of ever increasing opportunities to milk state government coffers.

    just musing on the pattern, with not a lot of hard evidence, i know.

  21. Daniel Buresh

    Corey, accurate indeed, but your phrasing has implications that make me wonder why you just don’t come out and say what you think. Then again, I realize that making such claims would probably end up with you in a libel suit. Your commenters generally take it to the next step so you don’t have to which proves your efficiency at writing. As for Graves, he is only responding to what he feels is an attack on his integrity with no basis other than what he was paid for a job. That’s only half of the picture. I’d have to know whether or not those services were worth it or what sort of impact he had. 50k a year is nothing in the world of consulting. As it pertained to Melmer I believe, forgetting about payments a person received up to 5k or even 10k doesn’t phase me either if it was a while back, nor does that imply that it wasn’t reported to the IRS. Now, the payments that were supposedly directed at a person and they are actively deny receiving….that may be of interest. If a certain person was embezzling and hiding that as payments to other people, that’s a big issue. You will always have bad eggs. In red states, they tend to be repubs, in blue states, they tend to be Democrats. Take a look at a union contract in NY if you get a chance. Everyone wants their cut, even if efficiency and the project takes a back seat.

  22. Allen Reis

    My view is Yackley will do only enough looking to make the public feel he is putting his best foot forward. Without the FBI and independent auditors investigators it will be swept under the political rug again

  23. Lars Aanning

    Every tax-paying American should be able to simply turn to Google to find out who gets what tax-funded Federal or state grant, who the involved players are, and a complete accounting of the dollars and cents…almost seems like the dirty (and not little secret) is that the world of grant funding is often shrouded in obfuscation and controlled by an entrepreneurial and privileged elite..

  24. Damiel, rarely do people accuse of me of not saying exactly what I think. I have made a direct and truthful statement based on the documentary evidence available. $50K may be peanuts for consultants, but do you really think consultants are worth more than that? What’s your real beef here?

    I’m with you, Lars. The use of public money should be absolutely transparent.