Graves Lowballs MCEC Grant Stipend in KELO Defense, Dismisses Moonlighting Clause

My report on Mitchell superintendent Joe Graves’s six-figure moonlighting as Teaching American History grant coordinator for Mid-Central Educational Cooperative got him some ink in the Mitchell paper. Now it’s gotten him some electrons on KELO-TV, where Angela Kennecke asks him about his extra work:

“I always looked at it that I administered the grant for about $30,000 a year.  Not bad.  No, it’s good pay. I didn’t pursue it for the money.  I pursued it because I was interested in the area, but I was also happy with the dollars,” Graves said [Angela Kennecke, “Mitchell Superintendent Defends ‘Second Job’,” KELO-TV, 2015.10.05].

Boy, there must be something about earning six figures from MCEC that makes administrators bad at remembering money. From June 2011 to July 2014, Graves drew $157,500 in TAHG stipends. That’s a little more than three years of documented payments, and a little more than $50,000 for each of those years. If you want to get technical and go by calendar year, the MCEC minutes available online show Graves receiving TAHG stipends totaling $37,500 in 2011, $62,500 in 2012, $42,500 in 2013, and $20,000 in 2014, an average of $40,625 in each calendar year. (And we’re not even counting the $19,502.69 in expenses for which MCEC reimbursed Graves.)

Neither $40,000 nor more certainly $50,000 is “about $30,000.” Why is it so hard for these administrators associated with MCEC to just say what they made?

Graves does offer a pretty remarkable argument against the legal validity of the moonlighting clause in his contract. Kennecke raises a contractual question first raised on Dakota Free Press by Mitchell resident and former school board member Rod Hall. Consider Clause #6 of his current $128,550 contract with the Mitchell School District:

Mitchell School District superintendent's contract, Clause 6, issued 2015.06.09.
Mitchell School District superintendent’s contract, Clause 6, issued 2015.06.09.

Graves goes linguistic and says the clause he signed is absurd and unenforceable:

“Right, and that contract as in existence from the very beginning; item number 6.  So I sat down with the board member who presented that to me at the time and said, ‘You know, the language here is a little odd–basically in that–could you sleep?  Well no–you can’t because it’s your entire time,'” Graves said [Kennecke, 2015.10.05].

Graves has an interesting “right-to-work” point: How can an employer lay claim to an employee’s “entire time”? As long as an employee shows up and gets things done, who is the boss to forbid an employee from holding down a second job?

But the question remains just how much work Graves did to earn more than a typical teacher’s salary coordinating grant money and arranging trips for history teachers (and, according to his comments to Kennecke, getting to go on those trips himself). 18% administrative overhead, all going into one guy’s pocket? That still seems inefficient to me.

19 Responses to Graves Lowballs MCEC Grant Stipend in KELO Defense, Dismisses Moonlighting Clause

  1. I understand his argument, my problem is more that Mitchell let him do this.

    I’ve seen contracts with $ amounts, to outside consulting, or that over a certain amount, the employer gets a cut of the money.

  2. If he wasn’t such a toady for the SDGOP establishment this may not look so bad. But kept in context with the SDGOP hog trough for toadies, contributors, family members and other cronies, it looks like just another snout at the guv’mint hog trough.

    The Rounds/Daugaard regime must have many, many more examples of this kind of illicit patronage. Whatever became of our Attorney General? I see he’s focused now on his stealth campaign to be the next crooked governor.

  3. It appears Graves wants the taxpayers of Mitchell to believe that his consulting work was all done after hours or on weekends so it didn’t interfere with his normal day job.

    So now we just need a freedom of information request to obtain Grave’s email so we can find out if his statements are true. Not only is he bad at Math, but I’m pretty sure he has issues with memory as well.

    The question now is whether the school board will hold him accountable. Seems to me they should be asking for his resignation, but I doubt that will occur since Graves has a nice pair of asbestos coveralls he can wear at any time (he is connected politically, thus he is protected politically).

  4. Donald Pay

    Can he sleep? No, not if the job requires a sleepless night.

    Districts pay relatively large salaries to the Superintendent to be responsible for what are often multi-million dollar community resources, not to mention the health and safety of the community’s children. Board members and administrators take lots of heat for these salaries, and if clause 6 is something Graves didn’t like, he had the opportunity to suggest different language or decline the job.

    The Superintendent has to be available 24-7, if necessary. As a school board member I always stood up for paying administrators good money because we do expect a lot from them—their entire time.

  5. Perhaps this is why he led expense paid field trips to historical sites, and not math symposiums. The ag will hang most of this on Westerhuis in his campaign for governor.

  6. It sounds like Graves should have hired a lawyer if he had objection to a clause in his contract. It is likely that the school district did not issue that contract without counsel, so he likely doesn’t have much to stand on.
    Additionally, If I were Supt Graves, I would not be going out an making these statements to the press and sending emails to my employees without talking to a lawyer first, he is unnecessarily exposing himself to additional scrutiny (which you are happy to jump on Cory).

  7. Craig Guymon

    Earlier today (Oct 6, 2015) under CAH “Bonnie & Clyde” Rod Hall asked when some group was going to bring action against Dr. Joseph Graves for breaching his MSD 17-2 employment contract?


    I bounced your question around between my ears asking myself some more questions:

    1. What criminal statute is Supt Joe perceived to have possibly violated when he was double dipping at MCEC while serving as a MSD 17-2 superintendent of schools?

    2. Would the Catholic DCSA or the Catholic Asst DCSA ever file a criminal charge against a Roman Catholic reverend, HFCC Deacon Joseph Graves?

    3. If Supt Graves has violated a criminal statute, then based on the sermon Deacon Joe pitched to Angela Kenneke, securing a guilty as charged plea seems to be an extremely unlikely possibility?

    4. If Supt Graves has violated a criminal statute, could a prosecutor prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Dr. Graves violated the criminal statute?

    5. Did Supt Graves secure a master degree in history education via the TAHG he administered on behalf of MCEC? Would Supt Graves doing so qualify as triple dipping?

    6. If a community action group of MSD 17-2 property tax payers filed a civil court action against Dr. Graves naming as an individual seeking $157,500 of incurred damages, securing jury award would require plaintiffs to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Supt Graves breached his MSD 17-2 employment contract and that MSD 17-2 taxpayers incurred $157,500 of monetary damages?

    Rod, keep digging even if you have 10 hounds on your ass,

    Badger, Out!

    Badger, Out!

  8. Paragraph 6 of his contract clearly wasn’t written to keep Graves from sleeping. It was to keep him from taking a second job and requiring him to spend all of his working hours on the job as Mitchell Superintendent. Any court or jury would reject his ridiculous rationalization and find him in violation of his contract. The Mitchell School Board should take formal action on Graves’s contract violation.

    And once again, we’re just talking about one of the two grants Graves claims he was working on for MCEC. What was the other one, and how much was he paid on that?

  9. Exactly Mr. Rorschach, it is a contract conflict that Graves wants everyone to forgetaboutit. While it is not criminal, it is a clear violation of Paragraph 6 in his contract. As Graves is a contributing member of the ruling class that has us all by the balls in South Dakota, he thinks rules do not apply to him. If Mitchell refuses to take him to task over this, then they condone such behaviour in all of the contracts they issue to all parties in their district. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

  10. Francis Schaffer

    He hasn’t denied taking the money, yet what else could he be doing that the Mitchell Board of Education does not know about?

  11. Why would the Mitchell Board of Education have a clause 6 if they are not going to enforce it? He clearly has violated that and then has the juevos to low ball the amount he was paid.

  12. Many contracts are standard, as in they are written by the lawyers and dolled out to who the board determines to hire.

    If he honestly asked for permission and the board granted it and he was open about I don’t know if there is much they can do about it.

    I do have to give Keloland some credit as they continue to be first with this story. Its like a complete reverse of EB-5 where the Argus lead and they followed, I haven’t heard the Argus write much of anything about this, where I do feel there is a story, it’ll be interesting to see where it ends up

  13. Is that you dissembling, Joe Graves? Either it’s Joe Graves or somebody who didn’t carefully review the KELO story or this blog before commenting. The Mitchell School Board did not grant Graves permission to take a second and/or a third job (third job would be the other MCEC contract he admits to working on). The Mitchell School Board did not grant Graves any waiver from the contract language that limited him to one job – Mitchell Superintendent.

  14. It would seem that Mr. Graves gravely violated his contract that implicitly stated what his duties were in clause 6 of his contract. As a professional in any line of business, it is always incumbent upon the person reviewing the contract to fully understand the wording. As this was probably prepared by an educated barrister, then it would be a very important to have the contract reviewed by an equally educated barrister to make sure that everyone understood the verbiage. As even a high school graduate or much younger could attest, the wording is very simple and straight forward. Also, the high school graduate or much younger student could also attest, there is something incorrect with the math that Mr. Graves is using to come up with his low figures. As we like to say, something just does not add up.

  15. Disgusted Dakotan

    Wow! Curious how he treats teachers who make in yearly salary what he was pulling in on his 2nd job, if they brazenly violate the terms of their contracts?

  16. 96, Jerry, you make a key connection between Graves’ response to Clause 6 and the crony view that we live by the rule of men and not the rule of law. Language doesn’t just end up in contracts at random. Words and contractual clauses have meaning.

    DD, perhaps we should point this creative contract interpretation out to his teachers and suggest they look for contractual requirements they might like to unilaterally dismiss.

  17. Craig

    You ask an interesting question. Did Graves earn a masters in history under this program? Graves is or was the Librarian for the Mitchell School District and I read where Graves earned a Master of Library Science since he came to Mitchell,

  18. Disgusted Dakotan

    This appears to be a grand boondoogle for Daugaard cronies. Shameful that this money was supposed to somehow go to help Native kids.

  19. Correct Disgusted Dakotan, the funds were to help Native kids not to line the pockets of corrupt officials. Mr. Graves states “I always looked at it that I administered the grant for about $30,000 a year.” Mr. Graves held the purse strings in his own words, to this fraud. His own words declare that with his administering of the funding, he could also be culpable for its loss as he was a paid administer to do something. I wonder what clauses were in his contract with MCEC? Do they just pony up the funds without any further inspection? Where are both the US Attorney and our stealthy Marty? I am going to start calling the crony state government of South Dakota The Hole in the Wall Gang.