An assistant principal and wrestling coach at Hastings High School was charged Tuesday with embezzling nearly $14,000 meant for the school’s wrestling team, allegedly using it instead on out-of-state trips to college football games.
Joshua Gerald McLay, 37, of Hastings, faces eight counts of theft by swindle and eight counts of embezzlement of public funds, all felonies.
According to charging documents filed by the Dakota County prosecutor, the thefts go back to September 2011.
The charges state that McLay took roads trips to college football games from 2011 to 2018 as far away as Florida, and then sought reimbursement from the school district for hotels, van and RV rentals, food and gas by saying the trips were to coaching clinics.
He sometimes used his district credit card, and some years he sought reimbursement for football tickets.
“The investigation revealed that all of the above expenses were claimed to be for coaches clinics, but that no coaches clinics took place on any of these trips,” said Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom in a statement.
According to a statement last year from the district, the money McLay used was from a fund made up of donations from individuals and businesses for the wrestling team. Under the district’s policies, that money can be used only for equipment, training, events and travel expenses related to the wrestling team.
District officials became suspicious last year when McLay submitted a purchase order for 10 tickets to a Notre Dame-Florida State game in Indiana. The school district demoted him late last year, but he is still employed by the Hastings School District.
“The Hastings school board entered into an agreement with Mr. McLay back in November. The agreement is binding, pending the outcome of recent charges, and we are continuing to move forward with that agreement at this point in time,” said Hastings Superintendent Tim Collins.
The deal approved by the school board requires McLay to step down from his coaching duties at the end of the wrestling season in March and from his assistant principal job in June. He would be allowed to work for the district as a teacher in the 2019-20 school year.
The agreement also requires McLay to reimburse the district for the money that officials say he misspent and serve a 10-day unpaid suspension once wrestling season is over.
McLay is a 2000 graduate and a former wrestling standout at Hastings High and the University of Minnesota, and has been wrestling coach at Hastings High since 2010. School Board Chairwoman Lisa Hedin said last fall that the board decided to let him stay on partly as a recognition of his positive work with the district.
McLay, who was charged by summons, will make his first court appearance on April 8.