The attorney for the Manhattan School District will ask the Gallatin County Attorney to investigate whether Manhattan football coach Dale McQueary should face criminal charges for involving kids in doctoring fundraising documents.

The Manhattan School District hired Elizabeth Kaleva, a lawyer specializing in educational law, to represent the district in a lawsuit filed by McQueary against the district and superintendent Jim Notaro in November.  

While that case is ongoing, Kaleva will ask County Attorney Marty Lambert whether McQueary should face criminal charges for bringing his athletes on board with his fundraising actions.

“There are a lot of concerns that have been raised, specifically by parents who are concerned about having kids falsify documents,” Kaleva said. “We want that clarified one way or the other.”

Kaleva said she’s turning the investigation over to the county because her legal expertise does not include criminal law.  

“There are a lot of rumors circulating around town,” Kaleva said. “It’s undermining district’s ability to move forward when people keep rehashing this.”

Manhattan School Board Chairman Rob Brownell said he cannot comment about the latest legal development.

“Our hands are basically tied,” he said. “I would really like to have discussions, but we can’t.”

The one point Brownell could stress is that the inquiry is only to look into the “potential of criminal charges.”   

Kaleva hoped to have her letter to Lambert by today. Lambert said Thursday that he had not received a letter from Kaleva. A few weeks ago, Kaleva called Lambert and talked to him about a possible criminal investigation.

“First things first,” Lambert said. “The police need to be contacted to do an investigation.”

Lambert said that he will not speculate about potential charges against McQueary until he receives an investigation from law enforcement.

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said Kaleva has not yet contacted him about McQueary. If the Manhattan School Board approaches the sheriff’s office asking for detectives to look into the case, Gootkin said he will oblige.

In the fall, the Montana School Board Association launched an investigation into McQueary’s fundraising tactics. The association released its findings that showed McQueary withheld more than $20,000 in football fundraising money over a two-year period.

The investigation stated McQueary withheld cash from discount card sales and used the money for his football program. McQueary would adjust his final fundraising numbers to reflect only the checks that he turned over to a central district fund. The cash was diverted for the use of the football team.

Football players who sold the cards allegedly signed their names on a spreadsheet with false fundraising totals, auditors said.

Superintendent Jim Notaro has said that throughout the investigation he’s been approached by parents who were concerned about their students’ role in the scheme.  

McQueary’s conduct violated federal Title IX rules that require money be equitably spent on male and female sports. The Montana High School Association placed the high school on a probationary period for a year. High school principal Robert Moore authored a corrective action plan that sets a precedent for fundraising in the district.  

At the Manhattan School Board Meeting Monday night, McQueary told an audience of his supporters and trustees that he wasn’t trained or monitored by school administrators in his fundraising.

Much of the withheld cash was used to pay the man who ran the fundraiser, McQueary said. The school earned 60 percent of the proceeds, the other 40 percent was for the fundraiser coordinator.  

“In five years, I’ve never heard anyone come ask me what I do with my fundraising,” McQueary said. “They’re all happy I raised $11,000 for the school.”

In 2013, football players sold 932 cards for a total of $18,640. Of that, McQueary deposited $6,595 worth of checks and $10 cash into the district account. He paid David Polanchek of Granite Fundraising $7,456 in cash.

According to the MTSBA investigation, the remaining $4,579 in cash was spent on meals without going through the established district protocols or held in Mr. McQueary’s classroom or in his briefcase.  

McQueary filed a suit against the district last fall. The coach said he wasn’t given ample time to respond to a damning investigation chronicling his fundraising misconduct. He also claims he was slandered and put through emotional distress during the investigation.

That case isn’t headed for trial anytime soon. Kaleva said she’s working with the court and McQueary’s lawyer to set dates for discovery and motions hearings before anything major moves on the case.