A hired investigator found that Milton School Board President Tom Westrick violated school board policy—but not state law—when he signed off last fall on a $10,500 stipend to Superintendent Tim Schigur without board review and approval.
Madison-based attorney Lori Lubinsky said Westrick did not “intentionally” break board policy in granting the stipends. Lubinsky was hired last month to investigate three payouts to administrators and a district employee, two of which Westrick approved.
School board members have been advised by legal counsel not to discuss the investigation until Lubinsky says the district can release a full report. The board met in closed session Thursday night to discuss the investigation’s findings and Lubinsky’s report. The board voted 4-3 to discuss the report in closed session.
A crowd of about 50 people waited to learn what the board would disclose publicly. When the board, Lubinsky and the district’s attorney, Shana Lewis, emerged from the two-hour closed session, the board yielded all comment on the report to Lubinsky.
Lubinsky said her investigation found a pair of $10,000 stipends she reviewed, one for Director of Administrative Operations Jerry Schuetz and one for district IT employee Michael Gouvion, were administered properly and “in accordance with board policies,” although she did not give further details about that finding.
She said she also “found no wrongdoing” on the parts of Schigur, Schuetz and Gouvion for accepting the stipends. She said that conclusion was “readily apparent” and based on “substantial” evidence she reviewed during her investigation.
Another part of Lubinsky’s investigation, an examination of board member Brian Kvapil’s release of pay stipends for Schigur, Schuetz and Gouvion, showed Kvapil didn’t break state law in obtaining the records of the stipends from an anonymous source but that he had violated the law by releasing the documents to the media in February without giving the district employees involved a period of time to provide “augmentation notice,” the attorney said.
Lubinsky said Kvapil’s public release of the records was not “intentional.” She said Kvapil did check the rules around releasing records, but she believes he got inaccurate advice on when he was allowed to do so.
She also said her investigation showed Westrick did not “knowingly” break board policy in approving a stipend without board clearance.
“He did not look at the (board) policy and did not refresh himself on the policy” before approving extra pay for Schigur.
Lubinsky did not provide a detailed look into her investigation, and she said at the meeting she wouldn’t speak directly to the media about her report; however, Lubinksy said she would make her full report available to the public via open records requests already made and via the district’s website.
She said her 15-page report would likely be available by March 18. The report must be withheld until then, Lubinsky said, because the law requires a five-day “augmentation” period during which employees named in the report may add their own documentation. She said additional documents would be shared with the public in addition to the full report.
“The details of all of it, I assure you, will be released to the public,” Lubinsky said.
Lubinksy did not say whether Westrick or Kvapil might face any discipline or sanctions. Kvapil told The Gazette “I’d like to comment” on the investigator’s findings but that he “wanted to respect” the advice not to comment until the report is made public.
Westrick left shortly after the meeting adjourned without offering any comment.
Lubinsky said her investigation did not provide a forensic audit of the history of stipends paid to district employees, but she said the payment of stipends is not a new phenomenon within the district.
She suggested the board might learn more about past practices on stipend payouts from a more detailed financial audit. She said her investigation in that sense was “inconclusive” because the “coding” of financial records did not allow her to complete a full analysis.
It wasn’t clear if the board intends to further investigate the district’s past use of stipends.
Last month, the board launched an investigation into $30,500 worth of unbudgeted stipends that were granted in November 2018 to Schigur, Schuetz and Gouvion without board oversight and whether the granting of the stipends violated state law or school board policy.
The investigation came a few days after Kvapil released records of the stipends he said he obtained from an anonymous source.
The district and its attorney in recent days have withheld detailed comment on the investigation pending its conclusion. Some district residents have clamored for the release of the full report.
Documents obtained by The Gazette show Westrick OK’d bonus pay of $10,500 for Schigur as compensation for Schigur earning a doctorate last spring. According to pay documents, Westrick also signed off on a $10,000 stipend for Schuetz that was compensation to be spread throughout the current school year for additional work and responsibilities.
Other board members have said the board never discussed the stipends, and after the stipends became public, Westrick publicly acknowledged he mistakenly granted the extra pay without forwarding it to the board for review and approval.
Schigur’s bonus already was paid out as a stipend, and part of Schuetz’s bonus was paid out, according to district pay records. Westrick has not publicly acknowledged his role in signing off on Schuetz’s stipend.
Schuetz signed off on Gouvion’s stipend—$10,000 in extra pay—according to documents.