K.C. Head Start revamps board after pay scandal

Agency seeks 'fresh perspective' as it defends executive's salary

? The biggest Head Start agency in Kansas City is seeking new board members as it wrestles with questions about the $814,142 in salary and bonuses paid to the group’s executive director over a three-year period.

Federal officials have said they didn’t know of any Head Start director in the country making more than Dwayne Crompton, who heads the KCMC Child Development Corp.

In a letter dated Tuesday, Kenneth Spaulding, KCMC Child Development Corp. board chairman, asked the heads of four Kansas City foundations to help the agency recruit new trustees “who would bring our organization the benefits of new talent and fresh perspective.”

KCMC bylaws call for 15 people to serve as trustees, or directors, of the agency. Four of those positions are vacant. Spaulding’s letter asks the foundations to help form a committee to fill all 15 positions and to recruit 10 new members by the end of 2004.

In October, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services demanded that KCMC justify Crompton’s pay or return it to the federal government. Failure to do so could cost KCMC its Head Start contract to educate low-income preschoolers.

KCMC, which provides early childhood education to more than 2,700 low-income preschoolers in Jackson, Clay and Platte counties, detailed its justification for the salary in a letter to the agency last month. But the group has divulged few details about the contents of the letter to the media.

Crompton, 57, who has headed the agency for nearly 27 years, has defended his pay as a reward for keeping the agency solvent after KCMC’s then-controller orchestrated a $1.1 million kickback scheme in the late 1990s. The controller, Andrew Nyakatura, pleaded guilty to bribery and money laundering in February 2002 and was sentenced to 51 months in prison.

Crompton plans to retire soon, according to the letter from Spaulding.

“Although our board of trustees remains confident in the decisions we have made related to executive compensation, we also know these decisions — for a variety of reasons — have become the source of local and even national controversy,” according to the letter.

“Our board is quite concerned about maintaining Dwayne Crompton’s devotion to this organization as we work with Mr. Crompton to design and execute a transition plan in anticipation of his retirement.”