Nine people charged in Price Lab tuition investigation - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Nine people charged in Price Lab tuition investigation

Rep. Kerry Burt Rep. Kerry Burt

WATERLOO (KWWL) -- Nine people are facing one or more counts of tampering with records after the state investigated tuition payments at Price Lab School in Cedar Falls.

The Iowa Attorney General's office filed nine criminal complaints and affidavits in Black Hawk County District Court on Wednesday.

According to the filed documents, parents listed an incorrect address on school records in order to pay lower fees. Students living in the Price Lab school zone were charged $526 for the 2007-08 school year, while students living outside the area should have been charged $5,333.

Below are the names of those named in the complaints and affidavits, the charges and the amount of money the state attorney says they underpaid:

  • Angela Bigelow, one count tampering with records, $15,968
  • Connie Bigelow, one count tampering with records
  • Kerry Burt, two counts tampering with records, $37,139
  • Flora Dekock, one count tampering with records, $13,905
  • Kristi Eastman, three counts tampering with records, $33,755
  • Todd Eastman, three counts tampering with records, $33,755
  • Angie Gilbert, three counts tampering with records, $47,701
  • Stephanie Hovey, one count tampering with records, $9,754
  • Cheryl Longnecker, one count tampering with records, $9,764

The parents named in the documents were charged with one count for each child. Connie Bigelow is a former secretary at Price Lab. The state says she admitted to telling her daughter, Angela Bigelow, to use an incorrect address to pay a lower amount.

Kerry Burt is a Democrat currently serving in the Iowa House of Representatives. Burt issued a statement on Wednesday after the charges were filed, announcing he will finish his term but is ending his campaign for re-election. According to the complaint filed by the state, Burt told investigators the school was aware he used an incorrect address and he made no attempt to conceal it. Burt used a Cedar Falls address in the Price Lab zone, but he actually lives in Waterloo.

Burt pleaded guilty to a drunk driving charge last year. Burt was arrested in February 2009 in Ankeny and charged with Operating While Intoxicated. Burt had a blood alcohol level of .131. Burt pleaded guilty in August, just before his trial was set to begin. Burt's license was revoked because of the charge and he was put on leave from his job as a Waterloo firefighter.

Price Lab is located on the University of Northern Iowa campus and is part of the College of Education.

In March 2009, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the State Auditor's office launched an investigation into school records, after the state says an internal audit turned up information regarding false addresses. The State Auditor's Office released a report in July 2009 after inspecting three years worth of school documents and interviewing school staff, parents and community members. 

The nine defendants are scheduled to appear in Black Hawk County Court on April 22.

Since the initial audit, Price Lab now requires proof of residence when a student is enrolled.

Below is the full statement from Rep. Burt:

"In the last year, allegations have been made against my family and others concerning Price Lab School. The charges filed by the Attorney General today will give me an opportunity to set the record straight and I look forward to my day in court. I believe I am innocent and strongly believe my name will be vindicated once all of the relevant facts come to light.

However, given the timing of these matters it's important that I focus my full attention on my family. Although I will serve out the remaining months of my term as State Representative, I will not seek re-election to the Iowa House and I am ending my campaign effective today.

It has been a great honor serving the people of Waterloo and I'm proud of my record expanding health care to more Iowans, creating jobs, and making sure our kids get a quality education. I am extremely grateful to the citizens of Waterloo for allowing me to serve and look forward to continuing my public service in the future."

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