Who’s running the Milton School District, its school board or attorneys?

Judging by how the board has reacted to The Gazette’s inquiries into payments for Superintendent Tim Schigur and Director of Administrative Operations Jerry Schuetz, the latter seems to be in charge.

That’s something for voters to consider next election when board members clam up in the face of questions about the $447,000 resignation packages given to Schigur and Schuetz. These two “voluntarily” resigned effective June 30, and yet Schigur is receiving $148,500 and Schuetz $75,000 for “compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees.”

What damages? To Schigur’s and Schuetz’s egos? For the public scrutinizing an under-the-table deal to award Schigur and Schuetz $20,500 in bonuses?

These bonus payments might still be a secret if not for the gutsy decision by now-former business manager Mary Ellen Van Valin to release the records to school board member Brian Kvapil.

Kvapil then provided the records to The Gazette, triggering a waterfall of recriminations against him because he failed to abide by a state law allowing the subjects of the released records to augment the release with statements and documents of their own.

The irony is that Kvapil never would have broken the law if the school board had done the right thing by approving the bonus payments in open session, as Van Valin advised. If the board and administration had acted in a transparent fashion at the start, there would have been no need to “leak” the documents to the public. The administration’s secrecy was the original sin, not the “leak.”

Voters have been duped twice, once when Schigur and Schuetz grabbed bonuses unbeknownst to the public. And again through behind-closed-doors negotiations to give Schigur and Schuetz golden parachutes on their way out.

Which brings us to the list of 19 questions The Gazette submitted to Milton school officials seeking more details about these golden parachutes. The district sat on the questions for weeks after receiving them May 14. Then on June 6, School Board President Joe Martin announced the district wouldn’t answer them.

So we might never know, for example, “What compensatory damages, specifically, are Schigur and Schuetz being paid for?”

Predictably, Martin had a legal excuse for keeping mum: “Unfortunately there was no way we could answer any of them without putting the district at potential risk.”

There’s a risk, alright, but not the kind Martin thinks.

Martin and his allies have lost their sense of accountability and responsibility to the voters. They are more interested in satisfying the dictates of attorneys than explaining their actions to the voters.

The attorneys want secrecy, and the school board appears all too happy to oblige.

As for the taxpayers and voters, let them pay the legal fees.

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