Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Retirement came after call for probe

Questions remain over MCTS official’s departure

- Vanessa Swales

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 benefits. MTS is the private nonprofit 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 officials 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 first 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 first 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 offer 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 first 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 first 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 conflicts 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 office by saying he was ‘miffed’ 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 offer 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 official appointmen­t as managing director on May 19, 2023.

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