DENVER (KDVR) — Denver Public Schools paid more than $2.1 million in a federal settlement over misused funds that led to employee firings and resignations.

The federally funded AmeriCorps program is at the center of the case. AmeriCorps doles out grants in exchange for volunteer community service work, including in DPS. But the federal government alleges DPS fudged how much work was put into the program while still receiving its financial benefits.

“By enrolling teachers as AmeriCorps members, DPS deprived its at-risk students of the additional educational support they were entitled to receive from national service members,” AmeriCorps Inspector General Deborah Jeffrey said in a statement. “Double-counting teachers’ paid work as national service hours meant that the community received no net benefit from AmeriCorps funding.”

The U.S. Justice Department gave this account of the allegations:

The government contends that DPS recruited its existing employees for those AmeriCorps programs and then improperly counted, as AmeriCorps service hours, time those members actually spent on their duties as DPS employees, and not on service. Inadequate training, supervision and record-keeping contributed to DPS’s misuse of AmeriCorps funds. A former DPS manager admitted that they intentionally ‘pushed the envelope’ in ways that led to violations of AmeriCorps rules. DPS terminated, and accepted resignations from, employees who had managed the AmeriCorps grants and falsely certified education awards.

U.S. Justice Department

DPS is set to “immediately” pay $2,123,811 to the U.S. to settle the allegations. The school district could also be on the hook for up to $614,000 more, as it’s now responsible for paying any outstanding education awards through the six Americorps programs in question.

The alleged misused funds were during the grant years 2015-16. DPS announced in 2018 that it was putting its AmeriCorps program on hold as an investigation was underway.