Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Retirement came after call for probe
Questions remain over MCTS official’s departure
The unexpected February retirement of Milwaukee County Transit System managing director Daniel Boehm came months after an employee called for an investigation into employment discrimination and retaliation, according to records provided to the Journal Sentinel.
Questions remain open about the circumstances leading up to Boehm’s retirement. Sources in the transit system allege it came after an eight-month leave of absence, but an outside attorney representing Milwaukee Transport Service Inc. has delayed the release of records to the Journal Sentinel regarding his pay and pension benefits. MTS is the private nonprofit organization that Milwaukee County government created in 1975 to administer the MCTS on its behalf. On Wednesday, the attorney said records would be released next month.
Boehm joined the transit system in 1997 and was appointed its managing director in 2014.
MCTS officials declined to comment about Boehm’s departure. MCTS directed the Journal Sentinel to Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley’s spokesman Brandon Weathersby for comment. Weathersby hasn’t responded to a request for comment.
Boehm could not be reached for comment.
An unnamed employee wrote to Donna Brown-Martin, the director of the Milwaukee County Department of Transportation, requesting an “independent investigation into claims of pay equity discrimination and retaliation” by Boehm on Oct. 11, 2021, records show.
The employee’s name was redacted for privacy and to ensure that “other employees who seek to make employment claims are not deterred from doing so,” attorney Eric J. Van Schyndle of Quarles & Brady, who represents Milwaukee Transport Service, wrote in a letter to the Journal Sentinel.
The employee’s concerns first came about when Boehm told her she would be receiving a 5% pay increase in order to be brought up to the minimum salary set for their position, according to the records.
“In explaining the increase, the first thing Dan mentioned, in terms of my value, was that ‘you bring diversity.’ The next thing he said, in regards to my pay increase, was that ‘you were in the right place at the right time.’ This came after repeated comments and jokes, often in front of others, about how I did not deserve a pay raise,” she wrote.
The employee ultimately did not request a pay increase until September 2021 after having received a job offer from another employer.
The employee said Boehm had described a decision to deny a pay increase
as due to her performance despite reviews indicating she met or exceeded expectations.
The complainant wrote that after she went to Brown-Martin after Boehm denied her requested pay increase, he called the employee “disloyal” and a “traitor”, told her he couldn’t work with her anymore, and told her to “go to (word redacted).”
He later removed her as first chair of contract negotiations. The complaint said he explained the change as due to the employee’s considering another position and possible departure.
“When I asked what my standing would be if I were not considering another position, he said I couldn’t serve as first chair in any event because ‘you may look for other positions in the future.’ This led directly to my decision to resign from MCTS,” the employee wrote.
The employee contended that Boehm’s denial of a pay increase was discriminatory and that he stripped the employee of work responsibilities in retaliation for going to the MCTS director with concerns.
Additional notes also attached to the emailed complaint lay out further allegations of hostile working conditions, including an incident in which “his face turned beet red, raised his voice and was so angry” and ensuing “rant” after conflicts over contract discussions.
The employee voiced fears directly to Boehm about losing her job because of the incident.
His email did not address those concerns.
“He was downplaying his verbal abuse in my office by saying he was ‘miffed’ in the email,” the employee wrote.
The employee also shared “other demeaning comments” from Boehm, which included calling the employee a bad manager and opening the employee’s annual review by saying that she “sucked.”
The complainant also made note of “off-color remarks” that Boehm made about LGBTQ employees and his disapproval of MCTS’s Pride bus, as well as Boehm’s suggestion that a white, male MCTS employee would be good for an open position on the employee’s team despite an offer being made to a “rock solid African American woman.”
The employee wondered whether his dislike of managing her was due to his inability to work with women, records show.
“Working with him feels like his motivation is more like a policy of resentment that borders on misogyny that has led me to question my place within the organization, my decisions, and my future as an employee,” the employee wrote.
There were no disciplinary records in response to the Journal Sentinel’s request.
Then-MCTS deputy director Denise Wandke served as interim director curing Boehm’s leave until her official appointment as managing director on May 19, 2023.