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LAND O'LAKES - Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced today that he has asked the Vilas County Circuit Court for permission to intervene in a pending lawsuit involving the Conserve School located in Land O' Lakes, Wisconsin.
The Conserve School is a private, college preparatory boarding school owned and operated by the non-profit Conserve School Corporation on a 1,200 acre site in Vilas County. The school's educational mission is to educate students in areas related to conservation of natural resources. Since the school began in 2002, it has been funded primarily through gifts from a trust created by the late James R. Lowenstine, and Illinois resident.
The current lawsuit, titled Conserve Community LLC, et al. v. Conserve School Corp., et al., Case No. 09-CV-54, was commenced by the parents of a group of students enrolled at the Conserve School after it was announced that the school would cease operating as a four-year college preparatory institution and would, instead, operate as a "semester away" program aimed at students enrolled in other high schools. The parents' group is objecting to this decision and is claiming that the directors of the Conserve School Corporation have a conflict-of-interest because those same directors also control the trust established by Mr. Lowenstine as well as the board of directors of Central Steel and Wire Company. The stock of Central Steel and Wire Company represents the primary asset of the trust. The parents' group alleges that a drop in income from the Central Steel and Wire Company stock caused the trust's decision to reduce funding to Conserve School which, in turn, led to the decision to change the school's program.
The Attorney General's motion to intervene asks for judicial relief that will ensure that the non-profit Conserve School Corporation is operated and managed in accordance with Wisconsin law. The Attorney General is also asking the court to immediately appoint a custodian to exercise certain powers of the corporation pending resolution of the litigation.
In discussing his decision to become involved in the Conserve School litigation, Attorney General Van Hollen stated: "The Conserve School is a tremendous asset to the people of Wisconsin. My goal is to make sure that conflicts of interest do not harm the school's interests or prevent the school from protecting its legal rights. Whether the school should assert legal claims against the trust or whether the school should or should not continue as a four-year institution is a decision that should be made by people whose only objective is to do what is best for Conserve School. Unfortunately, the current directors of the school have conflicting loyalties to the school, the trust and Central Steel and Wire Company."
Attorney General Van Hollen has asked the court to appoint retired Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Jon P. Wilcox as the custodian for Conserve School Corporation. Regarding Justice Wilcox, Van Hollen states: "Justice Wilcox has an impeccable record of service to the State of Wisconsin and appreciates the value of an institution like Conserve School. I can't imagine someone more qualified to step into this dispute, navigate the legal issues, and do what is right for the school."