1/11/2020 7:30:00 AM Rog shares message with community
To the Editor:
It is bittersweet decision that I have opted not to run for re-election in District 5 in the City of Rhinelander. I have been on Council since 1998 and have won 6 elections (in those days we served for 2-year terms). I took a break in 2008, only to be elected in 2016 for what is now my final term - although I did not know that at the time.
The last two years of city government have undoubtedly been the worst in all my years of serving the City of Rhinelander. Although Chris Frederickson ran on a campaign of openness in government and transparency, his administration has been quite literally the opposite. I have personally witnessed transparency and open government all but completely removed from city practices. As an elected official, I am routinely denied city documents, financial documents, bills and invoices that are charged to the city by contractors, and other papers that are vital to being an informed and effective official. I cannot imagine any other local or county government that denies its elected officials these documents the way that Chris Frederickson and Daniel Guild have denied certain members of this elected body. They seem surprised by a reported avalanche of open records requests (some of which remain unfilled), but which only serves as further evidence of their closed government policies.
As an elected official who places compliance with the law and open government above all else, I have determined there is no useful role in Mayor Frederickson's administration for honest and law-abiding people.
From the very first days after Chris Frederickson was sworn in, the City of Rhinelander has lost countless key employees or city officials under his direction and his administration.
The first was a skilled part-time city administrator who lived within the city limits and who understood budgets and city finances unlike no one other. We have suffered the loss of elected officials, city employees, contracted officials and many others under the direction of Chris Frederickson. Meanwhile, he has replaced some of these key employees and positions with his friends.
The loss of the committee structure is a huge blow to our local government that I am not sure is fully understood by city residents.
The loss of the Finance Committee and Public Works Committee are undoubtedly the biggest blows. The Finance Committee had oversight over the budget process, city finances, budgets for each department within the city and because of this, was able to keep property taxes increases and levies to record low levels.
The Mayor has had little (if any) training in municipal budgets and financing and, yet, somehow has convinced four other members of the Common Council that no oversight of the city finances is somehow best for our beloved city.
Remember, three of these four members of the Common Council who back nearly every endeavor of the mayor were new to Council in 2016. It is my opinion that Mayor Frederickson believes that being an experienced elected official is a bad thing. I am certain that city residents will feel the absolute foolishness of that way of thinking in their pocketbook and on their property tax bill in the near future. Never in my 20 years of service to government did I see the council have practically no information on the budget cycle as I did for 2020. The cracks within this administration are showing, and seem to be imploding.
Looking back, the debacle over the furniture purchase in 2018 was telling, and was but the tip of the iceberg. The issue was not the cost ($13,000) but rather that Guild and Frederickson made the purchases completely outside of the existing oversight process.
I have little doubt the furniture would have been routinely approved if brought through the proper channels. But for those of us accustomed to council oversight, the process they used was far from normal - shocking really - as those of us experienced members protested in any way we could.
Since then, they seem to have convinced themselves, and the new council members, that their spending practices free of oversight are the new normal.
Several hundred thousand dollars later (and counting), here we are today.
And for those in the broader community: As our water contamination issues continue to worsen; as a consistent group of five within our elected body faces lawsuits and scrutiny from warrants, raids on City Hall and law enforcement agencies; as we continue reckless disregard for spending rules and laws - spending hundreds of thousands on fruitless legal bills and potentially hiding or burying others (I have been just recently denied to see October, November and December, 2019 legal bills); as our highest-paid administrative employee is allowed to avoid a regular presence in City Hall as the Mayor chooses to just "look the other way"; as the City's IT system is under threat of compromise that I have personally witnessed; as our ever-worsening roads are impassible in places (compounded by failed plowing practices and apparently "unrepairable" stoplights); and as our leadership (with support from the City's legal counsel) continues to slam the door on open records and transparency, I wish you all well and I wish you luck. However, it is for these reasons that I have chosen not to run again because I have championed to shed light on these issues for the last two years with little to no results.
As Aesop said "We hang the petty thieves, but appoint the great ones to office."
My advice to many of you who have remained silent: Please take an interest in your local government, starting now.
I am concerned that it is going to get worse before it gets better. Happy New Year to the residents of the City of Rhinelander and thank you for your years of continuous support.
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