By Patricia Bogumil
A second complaint alleging violation of the state Open Meetings Law by the Waterford Sanitary District (WSD) has been sent to Racine County District Attorney Rich Chiapete, joining an earlier complaint made in November.
The matter is currently under review, Chiapete said via email Jan. 29.
At issue are questions raised by attorney Paul Bucher, who represents three full-time WSD employees, about the legality of posted meeting notices.
Bucher’s original Nov. 8 complaint to Chiapete targeted three WSD meetings that Bucher, working from copies of meeting agendas, had challenged as improperly beginning in closed session, rather than in open session as state law requires.
But questions were then raised by attorney Michael Dubis, representing WSD, about whether the meetings actually were held according to the agenda copies Bucher had. Dubis also explained that WSD had been without legal counsel during that time.
In a second complaint sent to Chiapete on Jan. 14, Bucher complains that a Nov. 28 WSD meeting agenda simply was “regurgitating” a list of general statutory exemptions that allow for a closed session, rather than being specific so the public could know the subject matter being discussed.
“This is the second violation of the Open Meetings Law by this entity, and I would ask for some enforcement action to send a message as to the importance of the Open Meetings Law to the citizens and the employees affected by this action,” Bucher wrote.
Bucher also complained that WSD Board President Dan Dickinson had presented a PowerPoint explanation of employee health insurance coverage that went into detail about individual WSD employees’ personal information.
“This was unnecessary for the explanation and invades their personal privacy under Wisconsin law,” Bucher stated.
In a Jan. 16 letter sent to Chiapete, Dubis argued that the Nov. 28 meeting notice was proper. Several exemptions to state law allowing for a closed session were listed on the agenda because several were discussed, Dubis explained. One topic listed – employee promotion – had originally been planned for discussion, but was not discussed that day, Dubis added.
He noted that WSD has only three full-time employees – all of whom are represented by Bucher.
“Under these circumstances, I believe the notice was sufficiently specific and that Mr. Bucher’s complaint exaggerates the ill effect, if any, said notice had on his clients, one of whom was actually present for the open portion of the meeting,” Dubis opined.
Dickinson commented on the issue Jan. 29, saying: “As far as we know, we did everything right,”
Bucher, a former Waukesha County district attorney, was hired last fall by all three full-time WSD employees to represent their interests.
In a Dec. 12 letter to Dubis, Bucher said his clients are concerned for their future, and they feel there is an agenda in existence concerning their possible termination.
If that is the case, “I can assure you this is something that would generate significant and extensive litigation,” Bucher warned.
“I’ve said from the get-go that there isn’t an agenda,” Dickinson commented Jan. 29.
“I have one thing – to save the District money. How that shakes out, shakes out, but there isn’t an agenda.”