The Milton School Board voted unanimously Monday to investigate whether the board president mishandled district funds.
The board voted to hire an outside firm to investigate allegations that $30,500 in stipends were given to district employees without school board approval.
Board Treasurer Mike Pierce will assist district legal counsel and the firm in identifying the scope of the investigation, per the recommendation of Shana Lewis, legal counsel for the school district.
Lewis recommended the board hire an independent firm to investigate the veracity of the allegations, whether policy or laws were violated, and whether employment decisions can be based on the allegations.
Board member Brian Kvapil spoke to The Gazette and other media outlets this weekend about stipends given in November to Superintendent Tim Schigur, Director of Administrative Operations Jerry Schuetz and a district information technology employee. Kvapil says they were not approved by the board or allocated in the 2018-19 budget.
Board policy says all payments made outside the budget must be approved by the school board.
Documents provided to The Gazette show Board President Tom Westrick signed a recommendation for Schigur to receive $10,500 as a “temporary” pay increase “due to a doctorate earned” by Schigur in May 2018.
Westrick took responsibility for the approval of Schigur’s stipend Monday night in an open executive session.
The board president said he was made aware by district legal counsel about three weeks ago that approving Schigur’s stipend violated board policy and that he did not have the authority to approve the payment.
Monday’s meeting was the first since Westrick was made aware of his policy violation. Westrick intended to address his actions in a closed executive session Jan. 29, he said, but that meeting was canceled.
“I personally own this oversight and take full responsibility for not getting the official approval from the full board prior to my request for this payment,” Westrick said. “I apologize to the board and I apologize to the community for this mistake.”
Westrick did not address payments made to Schuetz or the district IT employee.
Kvapil asked whether there would be consequences for Westrick’s actions. Westrick said he was taking responsibility for the mistake but did not recommend punitive action against himself.
Kvapil asked Westrick how it was possible after being on the board for eight years that he did not know he was not allowed to authorize stipends without board approval. He also asked whether any other unapproved stipends were handed out.
Westrick reiterated that he took responsibility and said he was not aware of any other unauthorized stipends given to the superintendent.
As discussion between Kvapil and Westrick intensified, Lewis advised board members not to make allegations during the meeting.
Board members showing they could not remain impartial on matters regarding district staff employment would not be allowed to participate in any future employment hearings because it would put the district at risk of violating individuals’ due process rights, Lewis said.
“I am begging you as your legal counsel: I am encouraging you to not make statements tonight that you cannot get away from so as to then interfere with your ability to serve in your capacity as a member of that impartial tribunal if and when that was to happen,” Lewis said.
Kvapil thanked Lewis for “walking him off the ledge.”
Westrick offered to bring approval of the stipend to the full board for approval as soon as possible. If the board did not approve the stipend, Schigur would have to pay back the $10,500.
The board decided it would not take any further action until the investigation was completed.