A member of the Milton School Board believes other board members have been discussing an ongoing investigation against advice from the board’s attorney.
Board Clerk Karen Hall said Thursday night during a special board meeting that other board members have been communicating with each other and with parties involved in an investigation of the district’s handling of stipends.
The school district’s legal counsel has advised the board and district administrators not to discuss the investigation with anyone until it is completed.
Thursday night’s agenda called for the board to convene in closed session for “discussion on administrator employment and administrator/employee compensation.”
It is unclear what specifically the closed session was intended to address, but board members indicated it was related to the ongoing investigation.
Shana Lewis, attorney for the school district, advised the board not to discuss the content of the investigation Thursday night because it could open the district to liability.
Board member Diamond McKenna made a motion immediately after the meeting was called to order to adjourn the meeting based on a recommendation from Lewis. The motion was seconded by Joe Martin, but before a vote Hall announced she has firsthand knowledge that board members have been discussing the investigation despite having been told not to.
District Administrative Assistant Kim Krause said Hall requested the meeting.
Board member Brian Kvapil said he was surprised to hear what Hall said and found the content of the claim “disturbing.”
Kvapil disagreed with Lewis and believed the public has the right to know about concerns from the board on the investigation.
Board President Tom Westrick said he did not want to go against the advice of legal counsel.
“If we are not going to heed legal counsel, why even have them?” Westrick said.
“That is a good question, Tom,” Hall said.
Board member Joe Martin agreed with Kvapil that the public had the right to information on the investigation but did not feel he was prepared to discuss the investigation with the board because he knows very little.
Westrick, McKenna, Martin and Don Vruwink voted to adjourn the meeting. Kvapil, Hall and Mike Pierce voted against.
The investigation into the handling of administrative stipends and board policy compliance began Tuesday with Attorney Lori Lubinsky at the helm.
Lewis said Thursday night she believes the investigation will likely be finished in about a week.
EMC Insurance, the district’s liability insurance carrier, will cover costs for the investigation according to district policy, Lewis said.
The board voted Feb. 11 to hire an outside firm to investigate allegations that $30,500 in stipends were given to district employees without school board approval.
Kvapil informed The Gazette and other media outlets Feb. 8 about the stipends given in November to District Administrator Tim Schigur, Director of Administrative Operations Jerry Schuetz and IT specialist Michael Gouvion. Kvapil said 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 approving Schigur’s stipend at the Feb. 11 board meeting.