Ex-Edina AD was disciplined in previous job at Woodbury

  • Article by: ANTHONY LONETREE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 12, 2012 - 11:30 PM

The reprimand for poor financial practices was one of two allegations made against John Soma during his tenure at Woodbury.

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Former Edina athletic director John Soma

John Soma, who resigned this week as Edina High School's athletic director, was disciplined in 2007 for failing to comply with proper accounting procedures while serving as Woodbury High School's activities director.

The financial misstep was one of two allegations made against Soma during his tenure with South Washington County Schools.

In a Tuesday statement, the east-metro school district said the second allegation also had been investigated but did not result in discipline and, as such, the nature of that claim was private under the state's data practices law.

In Edina, Soma was placed on administrative leave in August while the district investigated him for allegations "that had nothing to do with his employment at Edina public schools," said Susan Brott, district communications director.

Edina halted its investigation when he resigned, said Brott, adding that state law prevented her from saying more.

Barbara Brown, communications director for South Washington County Schools, said Wednesday that she did not believe Edina schools had been in contact with South Washington County personnel regarding Soma.

Soma, 34, had been an assistant principal and athletic director at Edina High School since 2009. He told the Star Tribune on Tuesday that he resigned for personal and family reasons.

In its statement, South Washington County Schools said that Soma voluntarily resigned from the Woodbury High post to take the Edina job and that "there were no allegations against Mr. Soma at the time of his resignation."

On Dec. 4, 2007, he received a disciplinary letter from a South Washington County assistant superintendent after the district learned that improper payments were being made from a Woodbury High activities department checking account.

The investigation involved checks written from the department to members of at least six families.

According to the disciplinary letter, some checks went to family members who did no work -- instead of those who actually performed the service -- as a means of circumventing a $600 threshold that the district established for filing a 1099 Form with the IRS.

The district also learned that blank checks were being signed in advance -- with dollar amounts and the payees' names filled in later.

"Both of these practices [payment to individuals for non-service and signing of blank checks] must cease immediately," the disciplinary letter stated. "Proper accounting procedures and scrupulous management of district and Woodbury High School activity funds is essential to the effective operation of the Activities Department and your credibility as a district administrator."

When asked if Edina Public Schools properly vetted Soma before hiring him, Brott said the district went through all the normal background checks.

She said Edina administrators only recently became aware of the disciplinary letter.

Staff writer Kim McGuire contributed to this report.

Anthony Lonetree • 651-925-5036

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