Milton School Board member Brian Kvapil has retracted statements he made about Jerry Schuetz, the district’s director of administrative operations, after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Schuetz’s attorney.
In a letter dated March 21, Schuetz’s Madison-based attorney, Caitlin Madden, demanded Kvapil stop making false statements about Schuetz and issue a retraction of prior defamatory comments.
Kvapil shared the letter on his School District-Milton Transparency Project Facebook page with a statement:
“Please know, I formally retract any statement I made which directly or indirectly suggested Mr. Schuetz received payments from the school district illegally or against board policy.”
If Kvapil continues to make statements he knows are false, Schuetz could establish “actual malice” against Kvapil, which is key to winning a defamation lawsuit, according to the letter.
The statements Kvapil made about Schuetz have harmed his reputation and caused his family “significant emotional distress,” the letter states.
The letter points to multiple instances in which Kvapil publicly made statements about Schuetz that were proved false in an investigation report issued by attorney Lori Lubinsky last month.
On Feb. 8, Kvapil wrote on his Facebook page that he “discovered” that the district had paid stipends to Schuetz, Superintendent Tim Schigur and a third employee, and “the procedure used to award or pay these stipends is a gross violation of the public’s trust as well as possible violation of district policy and state statutes.” Kvapil did not provide evidence for the statement, according to the letter.
Kvapil also wrote that the “community’s tax money” was “inappropriately spent on excessive bonuses by three individuals behind closed doors.”
Lubinsky’s investigation concluded that Schuetz did nothing wrong when he received a $10,000 stipend for taking on additional duties outside his role as director of administrative operations.
It also found Kvapil violated state law by releasing documents about district employees without providing required notice and giving those people a chance to augment the records, according to Lubinsky’s report.
In a statement published in the Edgerton Reporter, Kvapil repeated his charge that the stipends were “a gross violation of our public trust and of district policy and state statutes.”
Kvapil claimed on Facebook that those who accepted the stipends did so “illegally,” and he considered that “stealing.” The investigation did not reach that conclusion, according to the letter.
Madden said Kvapil continued to defame Schuetz in his augmentation to the investigation report, questioning Schuetz’s business administration experience and saying Kvapil has a “long history of receiving biased, inaccurate, and/or incomplete information from Mr. Schigur and Mr. Schuetz.”
Kvapil has deleted the Facebook posts and comments mentioned in the cease-and-desist letter.
Madden also demanded Kvapil preserve all digital and printed documents relevant to Schuetz’s defamation claims—including email and Facebook exchanges with the media.
Kvapil made his first in-person public apology Monday night after a nearly three-hour closed session at the end of the school board meeting.
Kvapil said he believed he was acting in the district’s best interest by releasing information he thought showed wrongdoing on the part of Schuetz and others. He now believes he made an error, knowing some of the information was inaccurate, he said.
The school board decided Kvapil’s apology was a proper penalty for his actions leading up to the investigation.