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0857, 23 Mar 17

Justman’s Troubled Past in County

One of the West Bend School Board candidates has a troubled history in Washington County. Before taking her current job, Nancy Justman was the Executive Director of AIS, which runs the Washington County Fair Park, for about eight years. She resigned abruptly after a lot of heat for botching the budget and running up a massive debt. Mark Petersen, one of the now defunct liberal columnists for the local paper, has some of the background:

The Education Committee minutes, starting on March 31, begin to tell the story. Nancy Justman, chairwoman of AIS, “presented a draft master plan for Fair Park dated February 11, 2008, and reviewed the 32 items identified in the plan. It was noted the items have not been prioritized and there are no cost figures associated with the items.” The Education Committee members approved the draft – apparently on the basis of trust, since they accepted a “master plan” that had no cost figures and no spending priorities. In the months that followed, no plan beyond this draft was approved by the County Board.

After March 10, new supervisors were elected, summer passed and, by early November, the Finance Committee had hammered out and approved a solid county budget.

Then something odd happened: a few weeks after the budget was finished AIS asked for the extra $410,000 to cover its overruns. AIS had to know about the additional $130,000 worth of improvements, apparently approved on the fly as construction was underway. Moreover, since the summer’s main events had failed to produce the anticipated profits, someone at AIS had to have known, well before the budget was finished, that they needed an additional $410,000. So why would AIS bring it up after the budget was passed? I’d like to know.

More alarming, when the request was finally presented in December, it was still missing the dollar amounts any competent County Board needs to make a good decision. The minutes from the County Board proceedings on Dec. 9 indicate that, as they’d done nearly seven months earlier, members of the Board asked for an updated business plan, this time to be submitted no later than Jan. 15.

While not excusing the poor management of the Washington County Board at the time, Justman’s failure to provide basic budgetary information was negligence bordering on incompetence. Justman resigned and ran for the hills a couple of months later under a cloud of controversy.

TOWN OF POLK – Nancy Justman, Executive Director of the Washington County Fair Park since July 2001 has accepted a new position outside of Washington County. Her last day at the Fair Park will be April 9.

“We are sorry to see her leave. She did a good job for the Agriculture and Industrial Society,” said Gordon Tonn, board of directors president. “We wish her well in her new endeavors, and it’s unfortunate that she had to leave us. She did a good job for both the AIS and the county.”

County Board Chairman Herb Tennies was surprised when notified by the Daily News that Justman had submitted her resignation. He declined to comment until he could read a copy of the resignation letter.

Justman touts her experience working with a board as a qualification for the West Bend School Board. Experience does not always mean successful performance.


0857, 23 March 2017


  1. billphoto

    There is a lot more to what eventually became a million dollar cost to the taxpayers.  Justman was one of a select few that knew that construction cost overruns were caused by extra ‘wants’ added after constructions started and did not reveal what was going on to the Finance Committee or the County Board.  The reason this was not disclosed is unknown.

    Sadly, Tennies refused to let the Fair Park Study Committee look into the problems at Fair Park.  The published study timeline stopped before the Ziegler building was planned.

    The County rumor mill supposed the County Coordinator Johnson or County Board Chair Tennies assured Justman and others involved with the construction of the Ziegler building that taxpayer dollars would be forthcoming.

    The flip side was Justman’s optimism about the income from the failed Harley event assuring others the bills would be paid was why nobody exposed what was going on.

    Whatever the reason for this mess, these types of actions are not attributes I look for in elected officials.

  2. UnderTheSchoolBus

    Hmm – guess that explains why the 3 candidate slate did not want to be interviewed for your newspaper.  So much for all this “transparency” they have been babbling about.  Wonder what the other 2 are hiding – or is it a moot issue because they rise or sink together as a slate?

  3. billphoto

    To be fair, the “story” here requires a little better explanation.
    Fair Park is run by the Ag and Industrial Society, a private non-profit invented by the County. Not surprisedly, the AIS Board is populated by former County Supervisors.
    As I remember, the Ziegler family had donated money to build an indoor horse arena. The County Board was told by Executive Director Justman that the Ziegler building would be serve a dual purpose; horse arena and exhibition center. The County agreed to contribute a portion of the money needed for construction with the balance coming from the Ziegler contribution and AIS. Three AIS people agreed to raise $250K, the late County Supervisor Don Roskpf, former County Supervisor John Kohl and former County Board Chairman Ken Miller.
    While it was never clear what part each played, AIS Treasurer/Building Committee Chair, County Supervisor/Chairperson of the Education and Culture Committee Marilyn Merton (the County Committee that oversaw Fair Park), County Coordinator Doug Johnson, County Board Chair Herb Tennis, Fair Park Executive Director Justman and the aforementioned three were, to the best of my memory, the core group.
    Inside AIS, all knew of the failure of Kohl/Miller/Roskpf to raise the $250K. Despite this, little ‘extras’ like a $50K moveable wall and $80K sound system were added after construction started which drove the cost up. All of this was hidden from the County Board for over a year.
    In other words, while AIS was short $250K to pay for the original design, they added another $250K in ‘extras.’  Who made what decisions when will never be known but Nancy Justman, as Fair Park Executive Director, was the face of Fair Park during this time.  What Justman did voluntarily or was coerced into saying is anybody’s guess but the end result was it cost County taxpayers $1M.

  4. Jenn Donath

    Nancy Justman posted a response on her campaign Facebook page. I’m posting it here so we have another perspective. Here’s her post:

    Recently I was asked to interview with a conservative local blogger. I politely declined the request with the following reply:

    “I have committed myself since the beginning of my campaign for school board to become informed about the critical issues facing our district. I also invested serious consideration in developing the platform under which I am running; namely the development of “feeder” sports programs for kids in lower grades, evaluation of current standardized testing, the importance of teacher recruitment, retention and engagement, and more comprehensive financial oversight and management.
    I believe it is crucial to represent all stakeholders in the district, meaning not only students and their families, but also teachers, staff members and members of the community. These stakeholders deserve a school board dedicated to optimizing educational opportunities for students at all levels. They deserve teachers who can focus on teaching, not testing. And they deserve a district dedicated to financial transparency and fiscal responsibility. I don’t believe a school board caught up in political debate and partisanship is in the best interest of these stakeholders.
    With less than a month left before the election, I want to continue to reinforce the core elements of my campaign platform.

    For consistency and in consideration of other editorialists, it is necessary for me to decline your request for an interview. However, with advance notification, it would be acceptable to me if you were to re-print this email in your column in its entirety. ”

    Apparently by not granting the interview I have ended up the subject of some speculative and inflammatory information.

    From July of 2000 through April of 2009 I served as the Executive Director of the Washington County Fair Park. During that time, I helped to grow revenue at the Fair Park and hosted many successful events. As the demand for additional space and events grew, the AIS Board entered into an agreement to build a modest exhibit hall. A local contractor was hired to head up the project, and in my role as Executive Director, it was my responsibility to work on this project along with the AIS Building Committee.

    As the project came to an end, I discovered that the contractor had signed many change orders that were not authorized by myself or the board. I alerted the AIS Board immediately. As a result, outside council was engaged to launch a complete investigation on what had and had not been authorized. I delivered this information to the AIS Board, Washington County Committees and finally to the County Board, knowing that as the Executive Director, the blame would be placed solely on me. I felt it was in the best interest of the Fair Park if I left the organization. I joined Visit Brookfield in April of 2009. Ultimately, Fair Park settled with the contractor of the building.

    As a parent of three children within the district I have witnessed, firsthand, decisions that have not been in the best interest of our children. I have watched as student needs have not been made a priority. I have expressed my concerns about the school district, and it is because of these concerns that I am running for school board. I believe we need change for the betterment of our students, families, staff and community.

    During my campaign, I have participated in local community forums, attended listening sessions, and presented my platform in print and online. I would like take this opportunity to reiterate my goals and objectives for enhancing the West Bend School District should I be elected:

    Curriculum should enhance the learning process, recognizing that each student learns at a different level and pace. I will make sure we provide a well-rounded curriculum that emphasizes core competencies.

    Testing and grading are important measurements of a student’s classroom progress, but the Galileo test may not be the best option. I want to be assured that it is a measurement of student learning, and not of a teacher’s ability to teach.
    Being a steward of tax payer dollars is an important responsibility. I will work to eliminate redundant spending, and reallocate existing dollars so key positions like social workers can be funded.

    We must listen to employees. 80% of staff have expressed that they are not fully engaged in our district, and some cited job dissatisfaction as a reason for leaving. We must create an environment where the best educational professionals come to teach our children.

    Without youth sports at lower grades, children cannot be expected to perform at peak levels in high school. Team work, how to win and lose gracefully, and taking direction are all important life skills for children to learn. I propose we implement youth sport programs in our district.

    There is a great opportunity for positive growth in the West Bend School District. I want to be part of that positive growth. I respectfully ask for your vote on April 4th.

  5. Kevin Scheunemann

    I have no horse in this WB school Board race and do not know Nancy Justman. From my perspective, I think it is very cowardly of a politician on a local level to decline an interview.   So little information gets out on local races. We do not need cowardly politicians contributing to the problem by refusing simple   information requests of voting constituents!

    If I read that response above in a district I was voting in, I’d make it my mission to vote against such a person.

  6. StopTheClub

    I too have no horse in the race. However, these allegations warrant that Mrs. Justman should not be voted for. These are serious allegations and they seem to be credible. I would think it would be obvious to everyone that Schmidt, Ongert, and Justman are 3 friends trying to take over the school board in on swoop. They are a team, and one of those team members (Mr. Justman) has some stink following her. Now she wants to manage bigger money, the school board. I’ve never seen this where 3 supposedly independent candidates are in twinged so tightly.

    The other race for Judge, Branch 3 is equally disturbing. Judge Martens is known to be rude and not follow the law, yet he sends out a list of his supporters many of which are lawyers that appear before him routinely  and law enforcement agencies. Don’t be naive and think  Martens treats everyone fairly. Martens is one of the corrupt judges that was given all his offices. This is the first real election where Martens has had to face someone else. Martens doesn’t talk about what be believe or stands for, but the other candidate Robert Olson does. Martens has spent 20+ in local government as a prosecutor and judge, and how have things gotten better? They haven’t. I’m voting for Robert Olson. He seems like a forthright guy without any desire to get into local politics. He doesn’t seem like he’s trying to sell me something. He seems credible. He’s from West Bend and he isn’t in the good old boy clubs

    We need to start interviewing these people more and ask them some tough questions. But definitely, this Nancy Justman issue cannot be swept under the rug!!

  7. StopTheClub

    To UnderTheSchoolBus,

    Good point, where is the “transparency?” Why won’t they be interview?


    Construction change orders are never signed by the contractor. Change orders have to first be approved by a licensed structural engineer, and then the engineer presents the proposed change orders for approval.

    This stinks to high heaven!!!! Get this information on the front of the West Bend News!!!

  8. billphoto

    I moved out of Washington County a few months ago so, to be honest, I have no skin in the game.  That said, I was a County Supervisor on the Finance Committee and a member of the Fair Park Study Committee during this time.

    The math here is the Ag & Industrial Society came up $500K short on what has supposed to be a $750K project that ballooned to $1.1M.  (not sure of the number, might have been $1.06M.)  Something does not work here.

    Ms. Justman states, “As the project came to an end, I discovered that the contractor had signed many change orders that were not authorized by myself or the board.”  Amazing.  The contractor added a $50K moveable wall, $80K sound system and another $30K for an alarm system?  The County Board Chairman, Herb Tennies, stopped the Study Committee from digging around into the additions and contracts so this information is what I was able to dig up on my own afterwards.  At a County Board meeting, the late Supervisor Don Berchem called the Fair Park Study “a fraud perpetrated on the taxpayers of Washington County” and specifically called Tennies a liar.  (For full disclosure-Tennies was charged with violations of State Statutes for refusing to allow myself and Berchem into a closed session meeting where what was going on at Fair Park was discussed.)

    As I said before, what Justman did voluntarily or was coerced into saying is anybody’s guess but the end result was it cost County taxpayers $1M.  (For my friends that like to parse words, County paid off the building, then bought the buildings and paid off bills that had not been paid in over a year.  Today, Fair Park is leased for $1 per year and hidden in the County budget is a $400K-$500K subsidy.)


  9. UnderTheSchoolBus

    What kind of construction contract lets the contractor make change orders without owner permission/acceptance?

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