Contract $98,000; Benefits $30,000
Wis. DPI Supt. comp. $121,307
Cost per student Mercer $20,146,
Wis. $12,942, Nation $10,667
ACT comp. score Mercer 17.0,
Wis. 19.6, Lakeland UHS 20.0,
Hurley 18.7; perfect score 36.0
Mercer DPI Report Card score
lowest of all 422 Wis. schools

Thursday, April 11, 2019

A Crank Facebook Accuser Accuses the Accusers

News of the criminal felony charges against the five present and former Mercer School Board members is receiving wide-spread coverage.  Print and broadcast media in many parts of the nation are featuring the story, including National Public Radio.  (See MSF 4/9/19 The D.A.’s View)
Duluth television stations 10 and 6 featured news reports about the charges filed in the Iron County Circuit Court by District Attorney Matthew Tingstad.  Probably one of the most comprehensive news reports was by Rose McBride on WJFW-12 out of Rhinelander last night. (The text of her report follows.)
The Iron County Miner and the Daily Globe had page one stories about the charges. The Miner called it the news that “rocked” Mercer.
Interestingly, a Mercer Facebook contributor, who does not understand the significance of these charges, is blaming the “negative notoriety” on the D.A., the Iron County Sheriff’s Department for investigating the charges, and the news media and blog and websites for reporting what is legitimate news.
The same distorted thinking was used when news also went viral about the showing of the sexually explicit movie “50 Shades of Grey” to young Mercer school girls by Kelly Kohegyi, a School Board member at the time and mother-in-law to Administrator Erik Torkelson.  In other words, it was not the act itself that was at fault but the news media for reporting it.   
This erroneous thinking seems to apply to the present situation with the five charged.  Of course, they are innocent until proven guilty.  But, accusing the accusers certainly does not help Mercer’s image and we hope it does not give others the impression that such warped thinking is representative of the good people of Mercer.

WJFW-12 Rhinelander

By Rose McBride

Current and former Mercer School Board members charged with felonies
Submitted: 04/10/2019
MERCER - A letter meant to show Mercer's school board did not inappropriately spend money on raises ended up leading to felony charges.

The Iron County District Attorney accused five current and former school board members on Friday of illegally signing that letter.

This means the problems from a Department of Public Instruction investigation into that $175,000 are far from over.

The Iron County Sheriff's Office spent months investigating five current and former school board members.

On April 5th, Denise Thompson, Kelly Kohegyi, Noel Brandt, Micki Holmstrom, and Deanna Pierpont were charged with Class I felonies.

The five signed a letter in May 2018 explaining performance bonuses given to Mercer school staff after the DPI audited the school.

Only Pierpont, Holmstrom, and Brandt were actually members of the school board at the time. 

Kohegyi was defeated in an election a month before and Thompson hadn't been on the board since 2016, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.

Kohegyi and Thompson were charged with falsely acting as a public official.

Pierpont, Holmstrom, and Brandt were charged with misconduct in office for signing the letter knowing that the two weren't on the board.

Pierpont was also charged with destroying a video of a public school board meeting in 2017 where Brandt got into a confrontation with a member of the public.

Class I felonies carry a maximum sentence of three years, six months in prison and a fine of $10,000.

Newswatch12 reached out to the Mercer school superintendent, the three current school board members with public contract information, and the DPI. None have gotten back to us.

We also contacted the Iron County Sheriff's Office who did not want to comment as this is an ongoing investigation.

All five are scheduled to appear in court for the first time April 22nd.


  1. Why don’t you name the “Facebook contributor” as Micah Magma (Bill Brundage).

    1. Don't waste your time with this guy. I know him and he has a serious problem.

    2. Is his serious problem his grammar or his horrendous logic?

  2. Interesting comment in the WJFW report from the sheriff’s office that there is an “ongoing investigation.” They completed the investigation into the five which has resulted in charges. Could the “ongoing investigation” be about Torkelson’s pay? There are reasons to believe that he was wrongly over paid thousands of taxpayer dollars.

  3. Once again Mercer school is in every newspaper and on all kinds of radio an TV stations across the state. The sad thing is, is that it has nothing to do with any of the accomplishments of the students. The people who are supposed to be running the school, and therefore setting an example for the students, are continously being involved in terrible and embarrassing things. In the past several years besides having 6 felonies filed on them, a coach and a school board member were caught by the students while trying to have drunk sex on the beach while they were supposed to be shaperoning a class trip. The same coach and a different school board member showed a nearly X rated movie to students while on a trip to a school sporting event. The school Administrator is being investigated for mispending $170,000 dollars of the tax payers money, most of which went to his and other staff salaries. He then paraded around in front of students at the schools annual electors meeting and swore that not one penny went to salaries. When someone began to question these people about what they were doing they set up a bogus restraining order to try to keep them off the school board. These things, along with many others are all being observed by impressionable students, who may be learning that if you lie, cheat and bully people you can get what you want. These people then all walk around town telling everyone that what they did was fine and they're sure they will get away with it. I still don't know how these people can walk around a small town and look people in the eye.

    1. Because you are dealing with a small group which doesn’t know what honesty means, has no sense of shame and wants to sustain a corrupt situation, probably in some way profiting from it.

    2. Save Our StudentsApril 12, 2019 at 6:19 AM

      They know what honesty means, they are just not capable of it. They are habitually dishonest.

  4. Don't forget how Torkelson lied about the school computers getting hacked, and then cost the school thousands in legal fees by unlawfully refusing to answer open records requests in order to cover up his lies. Mercer likely has the worst record of any school in the state when it comes to open records compliance. In the letter to the DPI Deanna Pierpont claims she is one of 5 board members who are just common folks unfamiliar with all of the legal formalities of meetings and minutes, but she has in the past bragged about her tenure as president of the Nicolet College Board of Trustees as evidence of her superior knowledge in these matters when questioned abou past actions.

    1. Pierpont was booted off the Nicolet board.

  5. It is the duty of elected people to kearn.The state statues are not in Russian and the school board (not Torkie) has always an attorney for that purpose. All 5 had access to legal advice. Shame on them for not asking or for not using the tools the taxpayers afforded them. Plus, now these are individual filings not a filing against the board.They each should be hiring their own attorneys. . I belie've more is coming down the path.

  6. Someone said that it is no big deal posing as a school board member when you are not. Would you feel the same way if someone posed as police office, a doctor, a teacher, a tax collector? This is very serious stuff. You can’t write it off as a mistake. They knew what they were doing when they signed that letter.

  7. As an outgoing board member I can tell you all five of those people knew what they were doing and so did the leader of the pack! After the dpi sent the first inquiry I asked that the board advised to the responses given but I was denied! Then when the DPI was unsatisfied with Erik Torkelsons responses they doubled the second inquiry stating the district did not answer the questions! So I again insisted the board be involved for accuracy especially when those responses were representative of the board! Still denied! Well now we can all see why the 72 page response Erik Torkelson provided to the dpi was not reviewed by the "board" - confusion of who that is may have set in! But seriously the students are watching and all of this horrible behavior is a far cry from Anything Positive! And Deanna you called me a rogue board member! "Well Me Rogue! You Accused Felon". And I did ask for a copy of the Oct 2017 annual meeting because Erik and the board threatened to sue me but Deanna told me the video wasn't available! Thank you to all of my supporters I appreciate it greatly!!

  8. Been there, seen that. One can only hope that the students don't pick up any of Torkelson and his school board comrades nasty, alarming, and disturbing traits. Unfortunately there are a number of people in the community that not only condone their behaviors, but also practice them on a regular basis.

  9. Christa, hang in there you are doing a magnificent job! Deanna is a poor excuse for a board member and so are the others!!