The Davenport School Board violated the state constitution when it sold a former school to a non-profit organization. That's the conclusion of State Auditor Rob Sand after looking into the sale of Lincoln Elementary School in 2019 to Together Making a Better Community, an affiliate of the Third Missionary Baptist Church.
Sand says the board agreed to sell it for 30,000 dollars, and turned down a much higher bid, for 290,000 dollars, from a private developer.
"There's a clause in the Iowa Constitution that prohibits public funds, taxpayer dollars, from simply being donated to non-profit organizations. If you're going to sell a building at hundreds of thousands of dollars less than what it's worth, when you have other bids available, that's essentially a donation you're making to a non-profit."
Not only did the board lose revenue by turning down the higher bid, selling to a non-profit meant the property would be tax exempt and the school district would lose that potential revenue as well.
Sand says he cannot block or cancel the sale, so what happens next depends on the board and district residents. He also criticized board member Linda Hayes for her "clear conflict of interest." She was employed by the church and still participated in the sale discussion.
As state auditor he's encountered sales to non-profits, and conflicts of interest, but says it's rare for both to occur in the same case.
The statement from the Davenport School District: On Wednesday, April 7, 2021, the Iowa State Auditor’s office released a report related to the Davenport Community School District’s sale of the former Lincoln Elementary School. After reviewing the report, District officials had a productive, and informative, meeting with the Iowa Auditors. As a result of that meeting, the District is proactively adopting, and implementing, the recommendations made by the State Auditors Office.