Cost per student Mercer $25,097,
Wis. $13,505, Nation $11,762
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 421 Wis. districts

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Administrator’s Pay and Benefits
Fresh from concluding the investigation and the dismissal of criminal
felony charges against five present and former School Board member, the Iron County Sheriff’s Department hinted that it may be conducting another investigation.
In an outstanding telecast by Rose McBride on WFTW Channel 12 in Rhinelander she said that when she asked the Iron County Sheriff’s Department to comment about the criminal felony charges, she was told it could not because “this is an ongoing investigation”.  (See MSF 4/11/19 The News That Rocked Mercer)
So, what could the “ongoing investigation” be about?  The investigation concerning the signing of the May 1, 2018, School Board letter and the destruction of a public record appears to have been concluded with Iron County Circuit Judge Patrick Madden mysterious dismissing them in an unprecedented action.
A major remaining unresolved issue involves the pay of Administrator Erik Torkelson.  Since he was hired in 2011 by his mother-in-law Kelly Kohegyi, president of the Mercer School Board at that time, he has taken home pay and benefits far in excess of his what his contract allows. Could the investigation be about that? 
Torkelson’s 2011 contract limited his pay to $98,000 and benefits to about $30,000.  A July 2017 contract increased his base pay to $113,500, but the contract is illegal because it was never approved by the Board in an open session.  During his tenure, he has also been paid bonuses which, again, were illegal because they were never approved by the Board in open session. But, look at what Mercer School documents show Torkelson actually has taken home in the past several years:
2017-18        $165,963
2016-17        $168,641
2015-16        $161,336
While Torkelson has been the administrator and drawing such exorbitant compensation, the school’s ACT composite scores have plummeted to well below state and national averages.  Also, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction School Report card score has placed Mercer 422nd in a list of all 422 Wisconsin school districts.
Hardly the kind of performance record that warrants a pay package of $165,963.
Add to this that we are paying $24,910 per year to educate each Mercer student, compared with a state average of $12,942 and national average of $10,667. The average annual all-inclusive cost for educating a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is $22,082.
Mercer school district documents concerning Torkelson’s pay and benefits have been given to District Attorney Matthew Tingstad, who along with Iron County Deputy Sheriff Lt. Paul Foryan, conducted the earlier investigation.
Let’s hope the “ongoing investigation” leads to Mercer taxpayers getting back some of their hard-earned money.


  1. As the saying goes, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck. Can it be anymore more obvious that there is illegal activities going on?

  2. It’s about time something is being done about this. This guy has been ripping off us taxpayers for several years and has been denying the kids the education they need.

  3. For the love of all that is good, the dishonorable Patrick Madden should not preside over any other case regarding the Mercer School. I hope the DA, if he does file charges, immediately and concurrently asks for a different judge.

  4. Retired attorneyMay 8, 2019 at 2:49 PM

    Some advice for CPA and Micah Magma – a member of your group has threatened people with bodily harm and damage to their property. The sheriff’s department has been alerted. Unless you restrain this person and not allow him to make his threats on your Facebook you could be involved in aiding and abetting if he carries out his threats. Suggest you get this individual some needed help.