Milton School Board President Tom Westrick apologized Monday night for approving what looks like an under-the-table payment to School District Superintendent Tim Schigur.
We’ll call Westrick’s apology progress.
At least Westrick abandoned the combative tone he directed last week at fellow board member Brian Kvapil, who alerted the public to these payments made without school board approval. When asked about the payments on Saturday, Westrick fumed about Kvapil releasing documents showing Westrick approved two payments, one for $10,500 to Schigur and one for $10,000 to Jerry Schuetz, director of administrative operations. Another document shows Schuetz approved a $10,000 payment for a district information technology employee.
Westrick complained Kvapil “may have violated the state laws governing the disclosure of public records.” On Saturday, Westrick wanted dearly to shoot the messenger.
But on Monday, Westrick, grasping the gravity of his error, performed an about-face. He said he would take “full responsibility” for failing to get the full board’s approval for Schigur’s bonus, which the board is calling a stipend. He acknowledged his actions violated board policy. There’s also a question of whether he violated state statutes.
We hope others involved in this ordeal also are prepared to take responsibility.
If there’s an innocent explanation for all this, we haven’t heard it. Neither Schuetz nor Schigur have commented on their bonuses, Schigur’s given for obtaining a doctorate degree and Schuetz’s given for taking on “additional work responsibilities.” They owe the public an explanation, and perhaps it will come through a third-party investigation the board authorized Monday.
We hope the investigation is speedy. The district and its hired investigators should focus on figuring out how these payments came to be. Westrick took responsibility for authorizing the payments, but he couldn’t have done this by himself.
We also hope the investigation avoids heading in the direction Westrick pointed Saturday—targeting Kvapil for releasing the documents or the whistleblower for giving them to Kvapil. Using the investigation to intimidate Kvapil or the whistleblower would taint the investigation’s integrity.
Defenders of the administration seem hesitant to criticize Westrick but eager to find fault in Kvapil. He is a thorn in their side, and they’ve tried and failed before to diminish Kvapil’s standing among voters.
But Kvapil is not alone in raising concerns. Along with the whistleblower, fellow board member and treasurer Mike Pierce agrees with Kvapil about district expenses requiring full board approval. These bonuses weren’t even budgeted.
At worst, Westrick intentionally circumvented the full board to avoid public scrutiny of bonus payments to administrators. At best, Westrick showed incompetence in believing he could unilaterally approve employee bonuses.
Either way, Westrick failed the district. Kvapil merely exposed it.
This editorial has been corrected to reflect that a document showed a $10,000 payment was approved for an information technology department employee. A previous version erroneously identified that payment going to the IT director.