Long-time school board member sues own board, accusing it of silencing public dissent and retaliating against opponents

A public school board member is suing his own board, which he says “makes political decisions in secret.”

Mike Meier, a school board member for the Wauwatosa School District in Wisconsin since 2004, filed a lawsuit accusing the board of breaking Wisconsin’s Open Meetings law, which requires that “all discussion and action, formal or informal, must be initiated, deliberated and acted upon in open session, except where the meeting has been properly closed for a purpose permitted by s.19.85.”

In one incident late last year, Meier accused the board of violating the law when it held a closed meeting in which another member said Meier “overcomplied” with public records requests about the superintendent. The superintendent was accused of violating the board’s conflict of interest and purchasing policies, and ended up resigning earlier this year.

Steve Doman, then-school board president, rejected Meier’s claims about open meetings but abruptly resigned in May after facing community opposition. He alleged death threats and toxicity on the school board in his resignation.

Then in August, Meier once again accused the board of violating the open meetings law. In this case, he alleged the board approved a sex education curriculum based on data it did not make publicly available, in violation of the law.

Although Meier said he didn’t personally take issue with Wauwatosa’s sex education standards, which he alone voted against, he saw that “other people of goodwill, concerned for their children and their heartfelt beliefs, wanted something different.”

In the lawsuit, Meier argues the board is controlled by a secretive and vengeful faction of the members.

“The faction makes political decisions in secret and retaliates against anyone who challenges them by silencing the public and their elected representatives,” he said.

As the lawsuit moves forward, Meier, the district, and the school board members have all retained legal counsel.