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North Dakota governor suspends rural school board members over alleged misuse of funds

The suspended board members are accused of willingly using school funds to hire Victim, Survivor, the Voice, LLC, a sales firm that wasn't credentialed to do an audit and wasn't in good standing with the North Dakota Secretary of State's Office.

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Four members of the Oberon School Board were arrested Thursday, May 28, when they were found to be misusing school funds. Photo courtesy of Penny Friesen

BISMARCK โ€” Four school board members in a Benson County town have been suspended and are facing charges after police say they misused $150,000 in school funds.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum announced Monday, June 1, that he and state Superintendent Kirsten Baesler decided to suspend Oberon School Board members Corey Ploium, Karen Peterson, Jacob Hegland and Carolyn Nelson after an investigation by the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

The governor has the power to suspend school board members if it's determined to be in the best interest of the state.

The suspended board members are accused of willingly using school funds to hire Victim, Survivor, the Voice, LLC, a sales firm that wasn't credentialed to do an audit and wasn't in good standing with the North Dakota Secretary of State's Office. The head of the company was Ploium's friend, according to court documents.

North Dakota governor suspends rural school board members over alleged misuse of funds

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Ploium was previously a teacher in Oberon, a town of 100 about 25 miles southwest of Devils Lake, but he resigned five years ago after he was accused of having sex with a student .

The four board members face several charges in Benson County District Court, including misapplication of entrusted property, giving false information to law enforcement and failure to disclose a conflict of interest.

The State Board of Public School Education will appoint enough locals to the five-member Oberon School Board to achieve a quorum, according to a news release. State Auditor Josh Gallion has been requested to do an audit on the Oberon School District.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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