September 10 – MILTON – The Milton School District tried to get its insurance company to stop paying legal fees for a former school board member who is being sued, but the district has faced a roadblock.
The district this week posted correspondence between the district legal counsel and EMC Insurance in which the district is asking EMC to stop payments.
An EMC lawyer responded that his interpretation of state law was that EMC must cover the expenses of former board member Brian Kvapil, at least in part, because Kvapil was acting on behalf of the district. school when he made statements in 2019.
The statements became the subject of a lawsuit filed in February by the school district’s former director of administrative operations, Jerry Schuetz.
Schuetz’s lawsuit claims that Kvapil’s statements caused him pain and distress, including one suggesting that receiving an allowance was “theft.”
Kvapil also said that Schuetz’s $ 10,000 allowance was paid without council approval, possibly violating the law or council policy.
In public statements and on a Facebook page, Kvapil questioned the integrity of those involved in paying several allowances as part of his opposition to a proposed referendum on school expenses. Kvapil said at a school board meeting that he did not trust the board or the administration to use the money wisely.
In a five-page letter to EMC dated July 27, school district attorney Shana Lewis argued that Kvapil was not acting on behalf of the district when he made the statements and when he released a report of payroll detailing allowances.
As previously reported, an investigation by an outside attorney determined that Kvapil violated the public records law by issuing documents from an emergency school board meeting regarding allowances paid to Schuetz, the then superintendent. Tim Schigur and a computer scientist.
The same investigation found that then-board chairman Tom Westrick violated board policy by approving Schigur’s $ 10,500 allowance. The investigator said Schuetz’s allowance did not violate district policy or state law.
Kvapil then retracted his statements about Schuetz’s allowance.
“By releasing the report, Mr. Kvapil engaged in conduct that was not authorized and was not in the best interests of the district,” Lewis wrote. “After issuing the report, Mr. Kvapil continued to put his interests above those of the district and the council by refusing to comply with the advice of Mr. Schigur and myself by ignoring the policies and practices of the council. ”
Lewis’s letter quotes Kvapil and Kvapil’s attorney that Kvapil was acting as a private citizen.
In a four-page response dated August 27, EMC attorney Patty Miller wrote that Kvapil’s statements and actions fall within her legally defined “scope” with the district, even though they were prohibited or unauthorized.
Wisconsin law requires EMC to “liberally” resolve the issue of whether the city’s insurer covers Kvapil in favor of Kvapil, Miller wrote.
Miller left a window open on the question:
“However, since it is possible that not all statements made will fulfill Kvapil’s functions as a member of the board of directors, EMC has provided and will continue to provide coverage to Kvapil subject to rights,” said writes Miller.
Lewis’s letter describes how the district paid two severance packages totaling $ 75,000 each as part of a severance agreement when Schuetz resigned from the district in 2019.
The second payment of $ 75,000 was for “compensatory damages and legal fees”.
By signing the separation agreement, Schuetz agreed not to sue the district, school board, or council members in an official capacity, Lewis wrote, and Schuetz honored that agreement by suing Kvapil “in a personal capacity” and not as a board member.
“To hold otherwise would circumvent the terms of Mr Schuetz’s deal and impose a cost on taxpayers beyond the agreed terms,” Lewis concluded.
Superintendent Rich Dahman responded to a request for comment Thursday through spokesperson Kari Klebba.
When asked if the district is trying to save money, Klebba said: “I think it is important to focus on taxpayer money.”
Klebba said the district should pay the deductibles specified in the liability insurance contract and that the district’s premiums may increase due to the lawsuit.
Kvapil did not stand for re-election in April. Contacted by The Gazette on Thursday, Kvapil said on the advice of his lawyer, he could not comment on the latest news.
The trial is underway in Rock County Court.