The Moses Lake School District has decided to hemorrhage cash by not preventing the theft of funds from the school and rewarding those who are caught taking the money.

**We may be adding more public records at the end of this article, for further documentation and reference, as they are made available. They will further support and possibly expand the article as it was originally written (9/18/21)**

Moses Lake School District offices

A few weeks ago, the Moses Lake School District Superintendent Josh Meek was removed from his position as school district Superintendent by the Moses Lake School Board.  His sudden separation from his position as superintendent at this public school district was the inevitable result of a recent investigation into some of Mr. Meek’s misuse of public funds for his own personal benefit.  His removal was not a close call, but the effort by the School Board to conceal wrong-doing, “avoid scandal” and reward bad behavior has only made the situation much worse.  Mr Meek, despite his misbehavior, was able to walk away with a full year’s compensation and an extra cash bonus compliments of a cozy relationship with the School Board. 

Moses Lake Superintendent Josh Meek is a glutton for punishment as he was recently caught illegally taking money from the school district as exposed in a recent audit. He was forced to step down from the school district because of his actions.

While Mr. Meek claims he was justified taking the public cash from the district, he is wrong.  However, as bad as Meek’s actions were, the actions of the School Board, particularly the School District President Vickey Melcher, to heap praise on Mr. Meek and shovel more cash into his bank account on his way out the school house door is worse.  The coverup is always worse than the original crime.  Let’s look at both and discover the lessons which can be learned for those of us concerned about shenanigans in our local public school districts.

Moses Lake School District– not the best, and leadership reflects this fact

Moses Lake School Board President Vickey Melcher, close friend of Superintendent Josh Meek wanted to avoid scandal

The Moses Lake School District is located in Eastern Washington State, encompassing the City of Moses Lake and much of the surrounding rural farming community.   More than 8,303 students are entrusted by their families to this public school system for their education.   It costs a lot of money to run a school district this size, and their budget is about $123.8 million (see article here).  Part of this budget has been a Maintenance and Operation Property Tax Levy, which the voters must approve on occasion.  Based on the vote from August (see election results linked here), 52% of the voters didn’t want more property taxes going to this institution.  In the School District Levy world, “no” never means “no,”  but rather “try harder next time.”  The levy is going back on the ballot this November for another bite at the tax apple.

When reviewing the Moses Lake School District in comparison to the rest of the state, it ranks in the bottom 50% in terms of academic achievement, according to their own data (See here).  The truth is worse than this might indicate.  They are listed as #225 school district out of #295 in the state (not sure why this site says there are 306, since there are only 295 total in the state), which (even under Common Core math) put them closer to the bottom 25% in the state.  Let’s look at how well they educate the kids.

According to their own “report card,” barely 38% of students are proficient in basic math and 48% have achieved basic reading proficiency, which implies less than 50% are functionally literate (or proficient) when they “graduate” from this school district.  Unfortunately, these stats are based on the 2018/2019 school year, which is the last pre-Covid district data we can find.  The true statistics from today (After Zoom School and our eternal lockdown world) , if they were to be recorded honestly would be much worse.  Fortunately for this school district (and the public school system in general) the data collection has largely been suspended during the current pandemic, and since this pandemic state of emergency won’t be ending any time soon, we will have no transparency on the current decline in education.   This is not a good thing for the kids or transparency, but the public education system tends to protect the adults from the consequences of their actions (or inactions).

School boards typically have five School Directors (Seattle is the only exception), elected to office holding four year terms.  The elections are held in off year elections, like 2021.  Currently, two positions are contested on the ballot. The first is the incumbent Vickey Melcher, who received 49.86% of the vote in a recent primary election to face a challenger Paul Hill (Washington State has a Jungle Primary “Top2” system – see here to learn more).  The other seat is an open seat being vacated by incumbent Moses Lake School Director Elliot Goodrich in position #4.  The two final candidates are Kevin Fuhr and Rachel Roylance Gallacci.  The recent primary election results can be found here.

The Moses Lake School District has been wasting more money than most realize, and the recent Josh Meek scandal may not be the only example…

The fall of Josh Meek and Vickey Melcher’s effort to “avoid scandal”

Vickey Melcher

By all accounts Superintendent Josh Meek was (outside this current scandal) and remains a popular guy.  He is close friends with School Board President Vickey Melcher and other school board members.  This friendship is evident from their emails obtained from public records requests.  This recent scandal was exposed this summer, and, based on public records requests appears to be, at least in part, explained in an email and triggered by retiring school board director Elliot Goodrich (see email linked here).  He appears, based on this email, to have stumbled on some concerning financial problems related to Superintendent Meek writing unapproved stipend payments to himself.  These were unapproved by the board (and apparently unknown to them). 

At some point in this process, this exposure triggered a more formal (and rushed) investigation conducted by Education Services District staff (see preliminary report linked here).  According to that report provided to the Moses Lake School Board, Superintendent Meek had, in multiple ways and on many occasions, unlawfully violated a variety of basic financial rules, district policies, and common sense.  Meek clearly took money from the school district for his own personal gain.  Specifically, based on this very cursory “audit” the following was easily discovered:

  1. A variety of “stipends” approved by Superintendent Meek (but not approved by the School Board) totaling $12,161.23 over a two-year period, written to Meek.
  2. Questionable cash-out of vacation days, which according to his calendar he took the vacation, but he cashed out those days (per his contract) and claimed he didn’t actually take the vacation because he had some emails or phone calls while he was on the beach or at the hotel.  This resulted in an unknown amount of money paid to him by the district.  See this linked analysis by the ESD “audit” which highlighted these violations.  It isn’t formally reported how many thousands of dollars were acquired by Josh Meek from these actions.
  3. Somewhere between $13,454.98 and $9,943.55 of personal expenditures made on the School District credit card and not reimbursed by Meek.  This is only over the past few years, and while he paid back a little over $2k after he was caught, this is in clear violation of district policy and financial rules. 

In addition, some questions in the audit were raised by the over $51,000 paid to Superintendent Meek as “performance bonus” pay on top of his nearly $200,000 salary paid by the taxpayers already. This “bonus pay” probably wouldn’t formally count as an “illegal” payment, but the manner and method in which it was provided to Josh Meek is suspect and questionable since he was able to determine the metrics by which his performance would be judged and then would assess if he had achieved these performance goals.  You must read the report to get the complete picture, but yeah, he magically achieved every metric and he was a performance pay winner.  Hey, it’s just taxpayer cash and “it’s for the children.”

I’m sure Josh Meek is a nice person, but he has sticky fingers when it comes to taxpayer money, and there is an almost limitless capacity for people to justify how “they deserve it.”  This is a problem he will be forced to confront in the future if not for what he took in the past.  However, the real story here is the absurd lack of oversight by the Moses Lake School Board once they realized they had a real problem on their hands a few weeks ago.

Vickey Melcher:  Let’s avoid scandal and reward bad behavior

It isn’t always this obvious…

Responsibility and leadership starts at the top, and Vickey Melcher is the School Board President.  She is also, by all accounts, close friends with Josh Meek.  I get it.  I understand that it can be hard to fire your friend when you catch them doing something wrong.  If you are unable to do this, then you recuse yourself and let someone else do what needs to be done.  Here is what she did (and the school board mostly in lockstep), and these are great examples of what you don’t do in this situation:

  1.  Put out a press release that absurdly says Meek did not intend to “inappropriately receive financial gain.”  (see here).  Think about it.  You caught the guy taking public money (“from the children”) he shouldn’t have been taking.  An independent cursory audit proves this is true.  You must remove him from his position.  You don’t put out a silly press release saying you don’t really mean it.
  2. Send an email to the rest of the school board members telling them that they need to “avoid a scandal” (see email) but have no concerns about the missing money or what else might be missing.
  3. Pretend that this guy is leaving “without cause” when clearly there is obvious cause to fire Meek without paying him an extra $200k+ bonus

Rewarding bad behavior not only encourages more of it from the person who doesn’t realize he isn’t supposed to steal, but it also encourages others who might be able to do the same thing with the knowledge (and now evidence) there are no consequences for bad behavior.  And, yes, it is bad behavior to steal money from the school district. 

The Scandal, the levy and an election

This is already a scandal, whether Moses Lake School Board President Vickey Melcher recognizes it or not.  There is a levy on the ballot in November, and it has already failed once this year.  If it doesn’t pass in November, maybe the school district won’t have the ability to toss out random bonuses and stipends anymore.  Perhaps this potential outcome was in part why Melcher was concerned about “scandal” in the first place.  Finally, there is an election, and at least one incumbent school board member is on the hot seat.

Most of the election drama for school districts around the state and country is centered on Critical Race Theory (also known as the “judge them by the color of their skin NOT the content of their character program”), Absurd Sex-Ed and Grooming curriculum supported by OSPI Superintendent Chris Reykdal, “Common Core” failures to improve “proficiency”, collapsing literacy (as evidenced by poor scores and illiterate graduates), mandated vax programs and forced masking of kids in school (if they even have in-person school).  This is plenty of drama for any school board election.  However, in Moses Lake, this recent scandal with the Superintendent unlawfully taking taxpayer cash, and then being rewarded by his friends on the school board just because they want to avoid “scandal”  just elevates this local election to a new height. 

I get it.  I’m sure Meek had his attorney rattle some cages, and if you are on the School Board, you probably want to reduce the already absurd level of legal costs the school currently endures.  However, the process of educating the next generation should not be treated as a personal piggy-bank for high priced bureaucrats protected by their friends on the School Board.  Oversight by elected officials of the bureaucrats they hire is a job to be taken seriously and not ignored, even if you are “friends” with the superintendent. 

Finally, lost in all of this story is the fact this district is not serving it’s community or the next generation very well by any metric being used to measure performance.  This shouldn’t just continue to be ignored and papered over with happy talk while striving to “avoid scandal.”  Plenty of cash is being shoveled into this process to educate the next generation, and the results appear to be getting worse the more cash is dumped on the challenge.  We must do better

Next Steps and What you can do in your school district

In Moses Lake, there are some basic steps the School Board should take right now to address this problem and to prevent more in the future.  They are relatively simple:

  1. Require a forensic fraud/audit investigation by the State Auditor’s office (there is a specialized division of this department which does a far more effective job than the average silly “audit” conducted by the state every few years on these local governments). This can’t be a “see no evil, hide the ball” coverup, but a genuine investigation. Rarely do these things happen in a vacuum.
  2. Require Mr. Meek to reimburse every dime he took from the district illegally and require him to pay for the costs incurred by the ESD investigation, State Auditor, and the school district to fix this problem (including the legal costs incurred).
  3. Overhaul the pathetic oversight currently in place on the school board and change their “performance pay” metric process – setting the requirements by the board and the assessment of whether those requirements were even met must be done by the board, NOT the person who benefits from the extra cash.
  4. Require every stipend to be formally and individually approved by the school board, not on their consent agenda, but as a recorded vote by the board. Many districts already do this as policy.
  5. According to this internal email, whistleblowers who knew there were problems were worried about retaliation and didn’t come forward sooner.  Reforms need to be made within the School District to address this issue and encourage staff to expose the truth about these types of behaviors when uncovered without fear of reprisal.  Unlike the scramble to reward Josh Meek for his bad behavior, this reform has the potential to address this type of issue long before it becomes a full scandal.

For activists concerned about their local school board, this Moses Lake School District example should help encourage you to follow the first rule of watching government – “Follow the Money.”  If you follow the money, you will often discover and uncover problems just like this one which are currently concealed from the public.  Using public records act requests, recruiting whistleblowers within the district, and having a plan to use this information to fix problems before they get worse can really make a difference. 

Finally, electing serious school district board members who understand finances, education, policy, and common sense is a critical step in restoring control over the process.   The future belongs to those who show up, and for far too long, nobody has been showing up or paying attention to these local government offices.  Your attention, your presence, and your vote can really change the direction of local government.


Background articles and links:

Moses Lake Superintendent to step down following audit (KHQ06 news)

Moses Lake Superintendent to step down following audit (Fox news)

Moses Lake Superintendent to step down following audit (News Kudo)

Redacted Report from Trisha Schock (ESD auditor) to Moses Lake School Board (view or download)

Supplemental Report from ESD auditor showing Meek calendar and analysis of vacation/personal days compared to what was “cashed out”

Moses Lake School District “Press Release” claiming Meek didn’t steal the money for his own personal benefit

Email dated August 2, 2021 from MLSD Elliot Goodrich to Vickey Melcher

Email dated August 1, 2021 from MLSD Vickey Melcher to other school board members – “avoid scandal”

Moses Lake School District – official website

Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction – official website

Columbia Basin Herald (Aug 20, 2021) “MLSD Superintendent in talks to step down”

August 3, 2021 Primary results (includes Moses Lake School District primary results and failed levy election)

Washington State Office Superintendent of Public Instruction – main website

OSPI – Moses Lake “Report Card” 2018/2019 (latest data)

Columbia Basin Herald (2017) –“Moses Lake School Bond Passes – Barely”

Moses Lake School Bond Survives last legal hurdle (2017)


  1. THANK YOU Glen for publishing this article! Every Moses Lake and Grant county citizen needs to see this, esp. when asking for millions more in the current school levy. As for Melcher, I have to ask, WHY is she allowed to run again, when she fully supports additional funds for Meek, and is ‘good friends’ with him. Make you wonder, how far does this corruption go, and for how long. Maybe an audit going back several years could shed some light on that. Once again, thanks. Finally, everyone, vote NO on the Moses Lake School District Levy!

  2. Hi Glen I filed 6 UCC1 liens on a bunch of Public servants in Benton County today. Each one was for 57 million. Jerome Delvin, Shon Small,Commissioners Benton County Assessor Bill Spencer, Benton County Treasurer Ken Spencer(hmmm think they are brothers? kind of fishy)
    and of course the Benton County Auditor Brenda Chilton. and the star of the revenue scheme the BENTON COUNTY MOSQUITO DISTRICT. These public trustees are guilty of huge violations against the People and Washington’s Constitution and the federal one also. Private property is not taxable. peace

  3. My wife works in administration at a school district. She tells me things going on that are similar to this. The problem of widespread financial abuse by top school administration and boards is EXTREMELY widespread. Her school doesn’t languish in the bottom 25% of proficiency though. I guess that makes all the abuse ok, right?

    • Nope it does not justify it. Point me in the right direction. Off line. I’m sure there are activists in this district who will be happy to uncover the truth and I’ll be happy to write about it and expose it widely. We need the light to be shown on stuff like this…

  4. He must have been raiding the cafeteria, I hope they fed the starving students before they died from malnutrition. I wonder how many kindergartners they they had to pull out of his gravity well as he walked by down the school hallway.

    • As you know, I never judge people by the color of their skin nor by the shape of their body. But the content of their character is worth noting and must be able to stand on its own. It is the human condition to fall far short of our expectations. The point of having policies, rules, and laws that encourage transparency and the truth are to discourage and prevent stuff like this from happening. In this case, the oversight failed, and this behavior went on far too long. Hopefully some fixes will be put in place to prevent it from happening again in the future.

  5. Hey Glen, I’m sure this is good …just got the intro where “Mr. Meek misuse of public funds for his own personal benefit.” Will finish later but felt a chuckle and am sure you’ve got some good ones as always within the article. In my nasty, sarcastic opinion it ‘s quite obvious Mr. Meek needed those funds for a very large meal…in a really nice place. Mystery solved! i’ll keep reading…thanks for posting

    • Well, as you know, I am never into body shaming, nor do I judge. I’m pretty libertarian that way. To each their own. However, I’d prefer if our public servants acted like servants and not grifters trying to take every advantage they can squeeze from the taxpayer. We need far more transparency, accountability, and effective leadership almost everywhere…

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