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School Board Back At It

By Anne Trautner Monday night’s regular Kewaskum School Board meeting ended with one school board member walking out as the board president chastised another member for violating board policy. The final item on the agenda was about whether Board Member Timothy Ramthun broke board policy when he contacted Attorney Kirk Strang. The item had been on last month’s agenda, and Board President Mark Sette said that he put it on the agenda again this month because Ramthun was not telling the truth when he said in July that he had contacted the attorney for personal reasons. “To be perfectly honest with you, Tim, at the July meeting, I smelled a rat, and I didn't think you were being honest about it,” Sette said to Ramthun. At the beginning of Monday’s meeting, Board Member Jim Leister asked for the item to be removed from the agenda. He reiterated that at the July meeting, board members agreed to stop going after one another and instead focus on the kids. “I thought we agreed to leave sleeping dogs lie, and to move forward,” Leister said at the meeting. “There was talk about not having these types of things on the agenda any more, and I generally am in full favor of that. However, some information became available after the last meeting, and I don't think as a board we have the ability to just bury our head in the sand and not discuss what has occurred,” Sette said. As Sette continued to talk about the issue, Leister walked out of the building in protest. Sette said that at the end of the June meeting, Ramthun commented that there had been good discussion among board members during the meeting. “Then it was the very next day that a phone call was made to the school district’s attorney by Mr. Ramthun that was not approved by the board. So in July, at that meeting, I posed the question to Mr. Ramthun about that, at which time Mr. Ramthun had a very long, drawn out explanation of how this was nothing more than a personal phone call,” Sette said. “You looked at me with somewhat contempt that I even asked you the question, and there was contempt in your voice as well. And then you played the victim card that this board doesn’t let you do anything, and you can’t even make a personal phone call without the board coming after you. And you went through a very long, arduous process of detailing how that all went,” Sette said to Ramthun during Monday night’s meeting. So, the district obtained a copy of the audio recording of the voicemail that Ramthun left with Strang. That recording was played for everyone in the room to hear Monday night. That is when Leister walked out of the building. On the recording, Ramthun says: “Good morning Kurt, this is Timothy Ramthun calling from the Kewaskum School District. I wear a couple of other hats, but I'm calling from a School Board, school district perspective, that as you may recall, I was given your name and number from Bob Soderberg from Germantown. I know you support that district from a legal perspective. It has been a while. We’ve had some evolution and process, an evolution and events, and yet I think I need to reach out to you, at least to your perspective on something that happened as late as last night at the board meeting to see from a school board perspective if there is some merit to do something about it, and so being a little cryptic, I’d like to know if it would be possible for us to schedule some time... to chat that is convenient to you.” He ends recording by signing off as “Tim Ramthun from the Kewaskum School District.” Sette said that the voicemail is not what Ramthun had described last month as happening. “I asked you specifically on at least two occasions, possibly more, if any part of this phone call had anything to do with school board business, and you were adamant on each occasion that it was nothing but a personal phone call. Personal only. That is what you said,” Sette said to Ramthun after the recording was played. “There is nothing about that voicemail that is personal in nature. You say on at least a couple occasions that you are calling about school board business. And it’s not a personal phone call. And your all but tearful reply last month was a lie. Dishonest and not true,” Sette said. “I was very willing to maybe say after I heard that maybe there is some misunderstanding here. But there is not. And that is not a personal phone call. And you did not have board approval to call our attorney or talk about school board matters. And I was somewhat appalled at how much you were lying last month at the July meeting with respect to this being a personal phone call. Because it is not,” Sette continued. “I was willing to try and let bygones be bygones, and not have this kind of stuff on our agenda anymore. But what you said last month was flat out untruthful. In my line of work, I would be out of a job because if I lie, and my name is attached to anything that goes across to our district attorney’s office, they are not going to touch me with a 10-foot pole,” said Sette, who works as a detective with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. “Your credibility was already thin with me when you called my employer, making accusations about me with absolutely no basis whatsoever, and some of the other shenanigans that you have pulled. And you would like everybody in this forum to believe that this board that is out to get you is the problem. And it is not. You are the problem. You are the problem when you lie, when you cheat, when you go behind people's backs like you continually do,” Sette continued. “Your credibility is completely shredded. You have none with me. It is an embarrassment. I’m embarrassed for the people that voted you into this position and the position that you voted into the 59th Assembly. It is terrible that you are allowed to go on like this and carry on and act like you do and willfully lie at an open meeting. With a straight face, and you don't seem to care about it. That's all I have to say. Your credibility is gone with me. I really don't have too much interest in anything else you have to say because it probably is not true. Thank you,” Sette said in closing. With that, Troy Hanson made a motion to adjourn. No other board members spoke and no action was taken. Ramthun was not given a chance to respond during the meeting. “I know you wanted to say something, but I don't want to hear it. So the meeting is adjourned,” Sette said to Ramthun. Following the meeting, Ramthun maintained that he had called Strang to ask for personal legal advice and that the two had never actually connected in a phone call. He said he did not know that Strang was with the same firm that the Kewaskum School District uses. “I really wish Mark [Sette] would have called me last month to say here’s what we got, do you have anything to say about it? He didn’t. He got the recording and said that I wasn’t calling about anything personal, and let’s bust him on that. I could have sat down with him to talk this through professionally and properly, but he never gave me the chance. It was an ambush again,” Ramthun said after the meeting ended.