Instructor may have violated school policy by organizing boycott over GOP signs


VIOLATION: A Milwaukee Area Technical College nursing instructor who organized a boycott of a business over its political affiliation may have violated school policy, a high-ranking MATC official says.

By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — A high-ranking official with Milwaukee Area Technical College says a nursing instructor who threatened financial harm against a private business owner for displaying GOP campaign signs may have violated school policy and could face disciplinary action.

Dr. Dessie Levy, dean of the School of Health Services, has extended that same warning to any other MATC employee involved in Allison Nicol’s planned boycott of Quality Healthcare Options Inc.

“It has come to our attention that some members of the nursing faculty have been engaged in conversation regarding possibly withholding student referrals from a local business that trains Certified Nursing Assistants due to the business owner’s support of a candidate for political office,” Levy said in a Nov. 17 memo addressed to the entire nursing department. “Currently, this matter is being reviewed and investigated by the District for possible disciplinary action.”

Levy has told staff that anyone who took part in discussions about the boycott may have violated the taxpayer-supported college’s Employee Code of Ethics, which specifically prohibits “using any governmental authority or influence to coerce any individual or group for political action or to confer benefits or effect reprisals to secure desired political action or inaction.”

Levy also referenced a provision that says, “employees shall devote full attention to their duties, uphold the law, and conduct district business with fairness, integrity, and professionalism, with full regard to the public trust of the office.”

Sally Sprenger, owner of the Wauwatosa-based Quality Heathcare Options, called on MATC to expand its investigation shortly after Wisconsin Reporter published a story Wednesday disclosing that Nicol, a member of the American Federation of Teachers Local 212 MATC, had several email conversations with colleagues about her plans.

Nicol wrote a letter to Sprenger Oct. 10 saying she would no longer recommend prospective students receive training at Quality Healthcare Options because the company was displaying campaign signs promoting Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa.

Nicol emailed 10 of her colleagues a copy of the letter on Oct. 11 to seek advice. She acknowledged that same day a co-worker named Judy helped her put together the letter.

Kathleen Costa Lieberthal, clinical coordinator of MATC’s Registered Nursing Associate Degree Program, said in an Oct. 13 email Nicol had her support and that she should “go for it.”

“Let’s get the word out to faculty as they advise students,” Nicol replied.

In later emails, Nicol inquired about using other firms that offer refresher courses because she was so upset over Quality Healthcare Options’ “political affiliation.”

Sprenger is asking the college to fire anyone who contributed to writing the letter.

“They have done wrong,” Sprenger told Wisconsin Reporter on Friday. “They need to set an example that this shouldn’t be tolerated.”

Nicol didn’t return several calls and emails from Wisconsin Reporter seeking comment. Neither did Local 212 president Michael Rosen, who represented Nicol in an initial fact-finding meeting with the college’s human resources department.

Nicol and most of the faculty members included in the emails signed the petition to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2011. The recall elections in 2011 and 2012 were prompted by Act 10, Walker’s signature collective bargaining reforms that ended the forced unionization of most public-sector employees.

Nicol contributed $125 to the campaign of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate who lost to Walker in 2010 and 2012.

Nicol said in her letter she has concerns with Vukmir because of her vote on chemotherapy pill legislation and her “disturbing relationship” with the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Vukmir also voted for Act 10.