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Former New Richmond teacher seeks to block release of personnel record

A former teacher is hoping to block the New Richmond School District and its superintendent from releasing his personnel file from the 1980s and ’90s.

Thomas Woznicki of Newton filed a petition in St. Croix County Circuit Court naming New Richmond School District Superintendent Jeff Moberg.

According to the complaint, Woznicki was employed as a teacher in New Richmond from August 1987 to July 1997 and was superintendent of Boscobel Area Schools July 2013 to August 2014. As superintendent, Moberg serves as the district’s records custodian.

The complaint says that May 17, 2014, Woznicki received an email at his personal email address from John Batchelor, alleging Woznicki may have abused Batchelor’s sister while she was a student at New Richmond High School between 1990 and 1992 and while she attended Lawrence University in Appleton between 1992 and 1993.

Batchelor asked Woznicki to “fully disclose any and all sexual activity” that he may have had with the girl. The email was sent to Woznicki, his wife and an unknown third party.

Woznicki denies the allegations and did not respond to the email.

In June 2014 a letter was sent to Woznicki at his place of work. According to the complaint, his administrative assistant, who wasn’t aware the letter was personal, opened it. The letter made similar allegations to those made in the email.

In July 2014 Woznicki received a second letter at work with the same contents.

On July 22, 2014, Batchelor sent another email to the same three persons, to Woznicki at work and to eight other people, including the chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and six other justices on the court.

The email started, “I am sure you and your wife are going to sleep very well tonight. Have a wonderful night.”

On July 23, 2014, Batchelor sent another mail to the first three parties, stating that “video recordings might have recently been sent electronically to the New Richmond, statewide and national news media and to individuals in legal, judicial and law enforcement agencies.

On Aug. 7, 2014, Batchelor sent another email to the three parties apologizing for his letters and emails and saying he would not be contacting Woznicki anymore.

On April 1, 2015, Moberg notified Woznicki that the New Richmond School District had received a request for Woznicki’s “complete personnel file for any period of time (he) was employed by the New Richmond School District.” The letter said that, after conducting a “balancing test,” the records would be disclosed, redacting only Woznicki’s home address. The notification said the requestor was the New Richmond News, but when Woznicki asked Moberg to confirm this, he replied that the request was Citizens for Responsible Government Network, apparently acting on behalf of Woznicki.

Its website says CRG is a “nonpartisan, fiscally conservative, grassroots political action group,” and it is a “custom, automatic open records request generator.”

Woznicki notified Moberg of his intent to seek a court order to restrain the district from providing access to the requested records.

On April 8, 2015, Woznicki received an email from the Boscobel schools’ attorney seeking to verify his email and postal address because she had received “a number of record requests” from Batchelor and Orville Seymer in Milwaukee, who is CRG’s field operations director.

“The scope of the CRG’s request, on behalf of Batchelor, is overly broad. Batchelor’s past correspondence, threats, and/or actions indicate his recklessness with information,” says Woznicki’s complaint. “To provide Woznicki’s personnel file, including personal information with only his home address redacted, would enable the continuing harassment and false accusations, as well as the potential damaging of Woznicki’s reputation by Batchelor.

“Although the public’s right to access information is held in high regard, this particular request for records abuses that right by using it to justify continued harassment of a private citizen.”

Woznicki asks that Moberg be restrained from providing access to the requested records.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.