01STOCK_GAVEL

MILTON

Milton School Board member Brian Kvapil’s lawyers have filed a motion asking a judge to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed against Kvapil by former school district administrator Jerry Schuetz.

Schuetz’s lawyers—Caitlin Madden and Aaron Halsted of Hawks Quindel, Madison—claim Kvapil in February 2019 shared false information about Schuetz “either knowing that the statements were false, or with a reckless disregard for their truthfulness.”

The statements listed in the lawsuit include:

  • A Feb. 8, 2019, Facebook post in which Kvapil said the district’s procedure to award employee stipends was “a gross violation of the public’s trust” and a “possible violation” of district policy and state statutes.
  • A Facebook comment the same day: “You should be more outraged at the people who illegally took the money. That’s stealing.”
  • A Feb. 10, 2019, Facebook post that called the stipends “unauthorized payments.”
  • A statement at a Feb. 11, 2019, board meeting: “We have people that right now it looks—appears—that they do not know how to handle money and actually can steal from the district.”
  • A statement augmenting a report by a third-party lawyer hired to investigate the stipends’ legality, in which Kvapil said Schuetz “does not have the training or qualifications to effectively do the business manager’s job.”

The statements were made after Kvapil released documents to local media when he learned three stipends totaling $30,500 were awarded to Schuetz, then-superintendent Tim Schigur and an IT staff member without school board approval.

Kvapil’s lawyer—Thomas Cabush of Kasdorf, Lewis & Swietlik in Milwaukee—argues in court documents that the defamation lawsuit “must be dismissed” because Schuetz’s allegations don’t meet the standards for defamation.

“The alleged statements were substantially true, the statements were opinions on matters of public concern, and the statements were protected by a privilege,” Cabush argues.

In the lawsuit, Schuetz’s lawyers say the former administrator “was constructively discharged from his position with the district” and lost job opportunities because of the stipend investigation and Kvapil’s statements.

In the motion to dismiss, Kvapil’s lawyer says Schuetz voluntarily left the district.

“The defendant did not intentionally interfere with the plaintiff’s contract with the school district,” the motion reads.

“The school district took no adverse action against the plaintiff. The plaintiff voluntarily resigned his position. The defendant’s statements were a matter of public concern (and) cannot serve as the basis for an intentional interference with contract claim.”

The lawsuit seeks damages for the emotional distress Schuetz endured, but Kvapil’s lawyer argues that his client’s conduct was “not extreme or outrageous” or meant to cause harm.

“The defendant reasonably believed the stipends paid by the administrators to themselves was not in the budget and were not approved by the school board,” Cabush argues. “The defendant’s statements were intended to inform the public and cannot form the basis for an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim.”

Kvapil said Sunday that he is thankful for his legal team’s work.

“I appreciate the efforts of my attorneys for all the hard work they’ve done and am very pleased with that hard work they’ve done on this,” he said.

Kvapil is not seeking reelection to the school board in the April 6 election.

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