The Wauwatosa School Board president abruptly resigned Wednesday after receiving what he called a threat to him and his family.
Steve Doman’s resignation came two days after several community members loudly called for it just minutes before he was re-elected as the school board’s president for the second year in a row.
“I have a concern that the type of toxicity that you see in the board room will show up at my doorstep and that’s why I decided to step down,” Doman said Friday.
The calls for his resignation follow months of discussions related to a conflict of interest investigation involving a former district administrator. Some parents, as well as a current and former school board member, are also worried the board violated open meetings laws, according to a WITI-TV (Channel 6) report.
Some parents also voiced concerns about school safety Monday after police discovered students had brought a box cutter and a handgun to Wauwatosa West High School.
“(Doman) needs to be removed from his position, as school board (president). Gone,” one man said during the meeting Monday night.
“Unfortunately, there is also a small group of community members and one board member that has chosen to create an environment where our board and administrative staff is no longer able to do their work to improve our district,” Doman said in an email to a reporter.
Doman didn’t discuss the specifics of the message he received which he perceived to be “a threat to the safety of me and my family.”
“From my perspective, I just think if this type of toxicity continues, I’m afraid we’re going to start to lose some great staff and keep people from working here,” he said.
But Doman said his resignation didn’t come because some community members called for it. “They certainly are valid in their concerns. My resignation wasn’t in response to them,” Doman said.
“Since COVID started it has been a regular occurrence for people to call for our resignation when they didn’t like our decisions but I never resigned before. I did now because of my heightened concern around safety,” he added.
Wauwatosa School District Superintendent Demond Means sent an email to families of the district following the resignation.
“I would like to thank Mr. Doman for his service to the Wauwatosa School District,” Means wrote. “His unwavering commitment to ensuring access to high quality educational experiences for all students is greatly appreciated.”
The school board will likely meet soon to discuss the process for selecting someone to fill Doman’s seat.
The Wauwatosa Police Department said Friday they haven’t received a report or complaint yet from Doman regarding the threat.
The school board violated open meetings laws, a board member says
School Board member Mike Meier raised concerns about the open meetings conflict while Doman was president.
According to a letter from Meier’s attorney Ben Cross, the board violated an open meetings law when it met in closed session Dec. 9, 2021 to discuss Meier’s response to public records requests from Fox 6 News.
During that closed session meeting, a board member said Meier “overcomplied” with the records requests. Doman sent a letter Jan 27 to Meier criticizing Meier for his efforts responding to the request. He said Meier’s production of public records was a violation of the board’s bylaws and said he would not assign Meier to a board committee.
According to Cross, though, board confidentiality polices “do not supersede state law requiring the production of public records and prohibiting decision making at closed sessions.
“Unfortunately for Doman and others, Wisconsin law requires that Meier, Doman, i.e. every board member, and the board as a corporate body, ‘over-disclose’ records created in the course of the people’s business whether it is good, bad, or indifferent. Doman and others may not use the discretionary powers of a board president to enforce their incorrect theories of law. Such antidemocratic actions are easily challenged in the courts,” Cross said in his letter.
However, Doman believes no such violations occurred.
“There’s been no findings that I violated any open meetings law,” Doman said. “I also acted in accordance with the advice of our legal counsel and beyond that, considering the threat of legal action by Mr. Meier, I don’t want to say too much more,” he added.
Meier said there have been no findings because there have been no complaints filed.
“If and when a complaint is filed with regard to the open meetings law, then the process would proceed to a finding,” Meier said Friday.
What was the result of the conflict of interest investigation?
A recent Wauwatosa police investigation into a former school administrator, who resigned after it was learned that she violated school board policies, found no reason to charge her with any crimes.
Kristin Bowers, the Wauwatosa School District’s former assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, resigned in January after an internal investigation concluded she violated the School Board’s conflict of interest policy and likely violated the board’s purchasing policy as well.
An investigation into Bowers, completed by Wauwatosa police detective John Milotzky, found that although Bowers violated school board policies, there was a “lack of proof beyond a reasonable doubt” that she benefited financially because of the conflict of interest concerns.