Wausau aldermen fight over emails, open meetings lawA fight has broken out on the Wausau city council over personal e-mails and perceived violations of the state's open meetings law.
By: By Glen Moberg, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
A fight has broken out on the Wausau city council over personal e-mails and perceived violations of the state's open meetings law. The dispute involves a last minute donation to a local charity.
The motion to give $25,000 to the Boys and Girls Club came as a surprise to Alderman Keene Winters, who says personal e-mails between other aldermen and the club's director point to collusion.
"Clearly in this case there was a list of e-mails and head counts beforehand,” Winters said. “That means that decisions are being made outside the public view, and that in my mind is certainly against the spirit if not the actual letter of the Wisconsin open meetings law."
Winters says the e-mails show an effort to line up votes in private. He wants a new rule that would force aldermen to use public e-mail accounts for city business.
"It also makes those records really hard to get. Oftentimes, you have to get down to a court order and a search of someone's personal computer,” Winters said. “It would just be so much cleaner if we all used city e-mail for city business."
Wausau Alderman Jim Brezenski says Winter's rule won’t work.
"Well, I think it's probably an impractical idea,” he said. “What would I do if someone contacted me on my personal e-mail? Refuse to acknowledge it?"
It was Brezinski who made the motion for the Boys and Girls Club funding.
"Quite frankly, I don't think the system is in any way, shape or form broken,” he said. “The way I proposed the amendment to the budget was absolutely appropriate. I've been scrupulous about never getting involved in violating the open meetings law."
Winters says he doesn’t want a precedent set for funding charities. Brezinski says if another organization has a legitimate need for money, he's willing to listen.