Milton school officials said answering media questions about the resignations of the district’s top administrators could put the district in legal jeopardy.
Milton School Board President Joe Martin in a statement Thursday said there is no way to answer any of the combined 19 questions from The Gazette and The Milton Courier “without violating state law(s) with respect to closed session(s) discussions(s) and/or violating laws governing attorney client privilege.”
The Gazette and The Milton Courier on May 14 submitted questions regarding the resignation agreements of Superintendent Tim Schigur and Director of Administrative Operations Jerry Schuetz.
The agreements were released to the public May 13.
The district’s legal team took “a considerable amount of time” to determine whether the district could legally answer the questions, Martin said in the statement.
“Unfortunately there was no way we could answer any of them without putting the district at potential risk,” Martin said in the statement.
The Gazette was unable to reach the school district’s legal counsel Shana Lewis for comment.
Schigur and Schuetz will resign June 30. Their contracts allow termination without penalty or prejudice under a mutual written agreement between the board and administrators.
Schigur will receive $148,500 in severance pay over the course of one year beginning Aug. 1. He also will receive a lump-sum payment of $148,500 for “compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees,” according to his agreement.
Schuetz will be paid two lump sums of $75,000, one for severance and another for compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees, according to his agreement.
Martin said in a May statement the district will pay less than $80,000 of the amount given to Schigur and Schuetz. The district’s insurance carrier will pay the rest.
Questions from The Gazette regarding the effect of the settlements on insurance claims and rates “would cause the district to merely speculate what may happen in the future, for which we are not comfortable offering a speculative response at this time,” according to the statement.
At the school board’s May 13 meeting, Martin said the board would likely schedule a format to publicly address questions about the agreements so everyone could get the same answers.
Martin told The Gazette the next day he was working on setting up a time when the board could answer submitted questions from the media about the agreements. The Gazette and The Milton Courier sent questions that day.
On May 15, two days after the meeting, Schuetz said the district would provide written responses to the questions by May 17. That date was postponed because Lewis was unavailable that week, Schuetz said.
The Gazette reached out to Martin, Lewis, Schuetz and other officials multiple times after May 17 to ask when The Gazette would receive answers.
The Gazette on May 14 submitted an open records request seeking copies of executive session minutes for the board’s April 8, 15 and 22 meetings where the board discussed terms of the resignation agreements.
The district responded May 28 with nearly fully redacted versions of the closed session minutes. A response letter from school board Clerk Diamond McKenna said the minutes were not subject to disclosure because of “the public’s interest in preserving attorney-client privilege.”
Still pending is a Gazette open records request seeking documents related to the resignation agreements.