Editor's note: This is a lengthier version than the article that appears in the April 11, 2019, Milton Courier.
After meeting in closed session nearly three hours Monday, the School District of Milton Board of Education returned to open session and to the Milton High School library. Board Vice President Don Vruwink led the meeting. School district legal counsel Shana Lewis also was present during the discussion of the employee compensation (stipend) investigation, administrator employment and a financial audit.
In the less than 10 minutes that followed, several actions took place.
Just after 11 p.m. board member Brian Kvapil spoke first. He said he had wanted to speak before the board went into closed session but he got distracted.
“I felt that I was acting in the best interest for the school district but that leap was a little bit erroneous especially given the fact that some of the information I got was not accurate," he said.
“And so although the public records that I gave to the press were disclosable, the way I went about it was not correct and I want everybody to know that I recognize that and I want to offer an apology to the community for not following the open (records) law like I should have. Also, an apology to Mr. (Superintendent Tim) Schigur and Mr. (Director of Administrative Operations Jerry) Schuetz and (technology staff member) Michael Gouvion, Mr. Gouvion especially because he’s kind of one of those guys that was caught in the middle and didn’t really know anything about what was going on. That’s about all I have to say."
School board member Joe Martin made a motion, seconded by school board president Tom Westrick, to ratify the $10,500 temporary market adjustment paid to Schigur in recognition of obtaining his doctoral degree. The motion passed 4-3 with Don Vruwink, Tom Westrick, Martin and Diamond McKenna voting yes and Mike Pierce, Kvapil and Karen Hall voting no.
Lewis said Monday evening the board read the second report issued by Attorney Lori Lubinsky, a partner at Axley Law Firm in Madison. She said that report will be made public in the same manner that the last report was made public.
”We will begin tomorrow starting to process the notices that are required under the public records law,” Lewis said. “And as soon as we as we are able by law to disclose the report, we will do so, including posting it on the district’s website. It is my understanding that the board members are not going to comment on the content of that report until after it has been disclosed."
That report did not include a financial audit of the stipend payments over the past number of years because Lewis said the independent investigator is not a financial auditor.
With a 7-0 vote, the board then approved a financial auditor Baker Tilly (with a backup of CliftonLarsonAllen) to conduct a financial audit of the district’s use of stipend payments over the past nine years.
Lewis said: “The audit will be paid for by the insurance company and the purpose of the audit is in order to determine the categories that fall under the heading 'stipend' in the district’s budget and financial reports in order to move forward in a way that better classifies and allows the district to be able to retrieve information related to the use of what is now called stipends.”
The meeting concluded with Westrick saying, “I would kind of like to repeat what I said back in February. I take full responsibility for the temporary market adjustment for Dr. Schigur. I should have checked the policies.”
Westrick pointed out that he has not been chairing meetings nor has he been acting in the capacity of president. Instead vice president Vruwink has.
“I have basically chosen to wear the 'hair shirt,'” Westrick said. (The figure of speech is in reference to the practice of wearing a rough, scratchy shirt as a punishment.)
At the next school board meeting, April 22, new board members will be seated and new officers elected.
In her March 4 report, Lubinsky said the board will need to decide what action(s), if any, to take against board members who violated board policy and state statute. With Kvapil’s apology and Westrick not serving as chair, Vruwink said the rest of the board is satisfied with those actions.
Lewis pointed out the Policy Committee is going to spend time with educational consulting firm Neola and with Lewis’ office looking at policies. She said the goal is to improve the policies to address of these issues and to put the board in a better position to know what is going on in the district. Those policies could include the minutes policy, the financial oversight policy and the compensation process by which the board is involved.
“We’ve already seen improvements by what (Director of Human Resources Chris Tukiendorf) described this evening related to the staffing reports,” Lewis said.
A report by Lubinsky, released on March 4 looked into whether or not the manner in which three stipends were approved violated state law or board policy. The report concluded:
• Westrick violated board policy when he, in effect, approved an increase of compensation (a $10,500 stipend) for Schigur. (At an earlier school board meeting, Westrick said he had made a mistake.)
• Kvapil violated the public records law by releasing documents to the media without providing to the record subjects notice of the impending release of the records and their right to augment the record.
• Neither violation was intentional.