An investigative report released Friday shows attorney Lori Lubinksy found no evidence of additional policy violations by Milton School Board members.
Friday’s report supplements a report released in March, which outlined an investigation into school district employee compensation and the public release of documents by a school board member.
The supplemental report focused on these five questions board members asked after the first report:
- Was the board aware administrator contracts included an increase in administrators’ retirement benefits from 40% to 60% of their exit salaries prior to the board approving contracts Jan. 22, 2018?
- Did the board unknowingly approve a contract authorized by Mary Ellen Van Valin, director of business services, in March 2016?
- Did anyone give confidential records to Chuck Jackson and other people before board member Brian Kvapil disclosed the records to the media?
- Did any board member violate attorney Shana Lewis’ directive not to talk about the investigation while it was pending?
- Did the vacation payout to Superintendent Tim Schigur in July 2018 violate board policy or law?
Lubinsky had answers for all but one of the questions.
Based on her findings, Lubinksy made several recommendations to the board, including:
- Keeping more detailed meeting minutes.
- Presenting amendments to contracts more clearly.
- Discontinuing the use of electronic signatures on contracts.
- Developing a policy for administrative vacation payout.
- Looking at the circumstances under which employees receive additional compensation.
Kvapil, who expressed concerns about retirement stipend increases, later conceded that his own notes from the board meeting contradicted his question.
On Jan. 22, 2018, the school board approved 2018-20 administrator contracts that increased the retirement stipend for eligible employees from 40% of their exit salaries to 60%. The change was recommended after the removal of long-term care benefits from the contracts, according to the report.
Former board President Betsy Lubke documented the increase in her notes from the closed session when the increase was discussed. Others interviewed by Lubinksy agreed the board knew about the increase.
Kvapil found he also had documented the increase in his notes.
The school board did not approve a contract for payroll supervisor Debra Ytzen because a contract was never presented to the board, according to the report.
On Feb. 8, 2016, Van Valin completed an employee recommendation form—the same form used to grant administrative stipends—that recommended Ytzen be assigned as a payroll supervisor beginning Feb. 1, 2016, according to the report.
The report notes that the form was completed Feb. 8, 2018, but the year was typed wrong, Lubinksy said in an email to The Gazette. The correct year is 2016.
Van Valin recommended increasing Ytzen’s salary to $61,800, the same salary Human Resources Director Chris Tukiendorf had when he was a supervisor.
After a discussion between Schigur and Van Valin, they decided Ytzen did not need a contract for the remainder of 2016 but would be given one for the 2016-17 school year, according to the report.
Tukiendorf had prepared a contract for the remainder of 2016 prior to that decision. The drafted contract included preemptive electronic signatures for the board president and board clerk, but that contract never went to the board, according to the report.
In an augmented response to the report, Van Valin said she asked Schigur if Ytzen’s job change should be included in the board’s staffing report, but Schigur said it did not have to be.
What was discussed between Schigur and Van Valin is in dispute, according to the report.
Lubinsky could not determine whether anyone disclosed confidential records to Jackson before Kvapil gave them to the media. Jackson refused to answer questions from the attorney, according to the report.
But at an April 8 board meeting, Jackson announced he received documents from a local newspaper.
The board asked Lubinksy to look into how Jackson had acquired the documents. A conversation between Jackson and former board member Don Vruwink before the investigation indicated Jackson received documents Vruwink had not seen, according to the report.
Everyone Lubinksy interviewed denied giving Jackson documents and did not know whether anyone else had provided them. That aligns with Jackson’s statement that he received his documents from a newspaper, not from within the district, the report states.
Lubinksy found no evidence that board members violated Lewis’ directive not to talk about the investigation, according to the report.
The only conversation Lubinksy learned of was between board member Joe Martin and Schigur, which occurred before Lewis told the board not to discuss the investigation.
Unused vacation time totaling $4,967, which was paid to Schigur in July 2018, did not violate board policy or the law, the report found. It was consistent with the administration’s past decision to pay out administrators’ and supervisors’ unused vacation in “unusual circumstances resulting in an employee not being able to take the vacation.”
This was an exception to the practice of only paying out vacation when an employee resigned or retired, as outlined in Schigur’s contract.
Schigur said he was unable to use 72 hours of vacation time because of extra work he did for the referendum. Van Valin said that could be deemed an unusual circumstance.
Van Valin said she called board President Tom Westrick, and he approved the payment. Westrick said he did not remember the phone call.
There is no policy, handbook provision or written document governing payout of unused vacation time, according to the report.
The report lists four other employees who were paid out vacation time under exceptional circumstances.