Making the bold claim to being the “guardians of the truth” and “defenders of the lake”, a web site entitled Lake Watchdogs has created a buzz in the recent school board election saying $1 million was "looted from the teachers insurance fund" in 2007.
School officials are refuting that claim.
The Lake Watchdogs site has been critical of the school district and its administrators. The site contains numerous claims of mismanagement and wrongdoing at the school district. Perhaps most notably, it claims that in 2007, $1 million was “looted from the teachers insurance fund to help pay for equipment.”
Proclaiming that only one side of the story is told at the lake, Lake Watchdogs says it represents “concerned citizens who commit to tell you what is really going on at the Lake of the Ozarks.”
In the past few weeks, the site has posted writings and links that have supported current board member Jim Besancenez and school board candidate Darin Keim in their election run for the school board. School board member Laura Martin has had her writings posted on the site as well as providing a link to Lake Watchdogs on her site.
Lake Watchdogs also contains information opposing economic enterprise zones and changes to the land use codes. These issues have been topics of heated discussion in Camden County.
It is, however, the post alleging that $1 million was "looted" by the school board that has raised the ire of some school district officials.
These posts have upset current and past board and administration members who say that the web site distorts facts and often writes fiction.
"That portrayal of stealing from the teachers' fund is so wrong," School Board President Nancy Masterson said. Masterson has been on the board for 15 years. She said if it was a true mismanagement of funds that it would not have gone unnoticed for this long.
Masterson said she felt these allegations were only surfacing now to create distractions just days before the election.
Camdenton Superintendent Tim Hadfield said the transfer took place prior to him officially working for the district but he was at the meeting where it was discussed familiarizing himself with the district.
"To my knowledge, that decision was researched and since that time I've checked with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Missouri Department of Education and the movement of those funds are completely allowable." he said. "The money was not looted."
Jackie Schulte, a current board member who was not serving at the time, said she is very concerned that an anonymous blogger can give half of a story with the sole purpose to "create turmoil and fear within our community."
Page 2 of 2 - "I want the patrons to remember just because it is written in a blog doesn't make it a fact. I am concerned that the truth isn’t getting out and the trusting public will believe the lies being told by someone who will not step out into the sunshine," she said. "Our blogging board members like to link their readers to the Lake Watchdog website so I ask, Where is the transparency?"
The publisher(s) of the website have remained a mystery. However, the display name "Lake Watch Dogs" has been used by Macks Creek resident and Lake Area Conservative Club member Stacy Shore in 2009 on her Concerned Camdenton Parents web site. The site was very vocal in its protest to the implementation of a math program at the Camdenton School District. Shore also used the display name “Lake Watch Dogs” in at least two of her personal web sites and to post information on a school board candidates website during the 2009 campaign. Shore has been recently seen at planning and zoning meetings voicing her opposition to proposed changes to the land use rules and regulations in Camden County.
Shore did not return phone calls or messages.
Views and postings on the Lake Watchdogs website mirror the philosophy and opinions of the Lake Area Conservative Club, an organization that was founded several years ago as a result of the Tea Party movement. One of the founders of the LACC and now Camden County Commissioner Cliff Luber said that he knew the identity of publisher(s) of Lake Watchdogs. However, Luber said that he would not disclose who was involved with the web site. He indicated that those involved did not want to be identified until after the April election.
Luber disavowed any association with the site and said that none of the board members of LACC were involved with Lake Watchdogs.