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September 24, 2019

8/15/2019 7:30:00 AM
Rossing resigns from sheriff's office
By Heather Schaefer and Jamie Taylor
Of the Northwoods River News

Oneida County detective sergeant, and Rhinelander city alderman, Ryan Rossing will leave his employment with the county later this month, sheriff Grady Hartman confirmed this week.

"The Sheriff's Office accepted Ryan Rossing's resignation letter effective August 24, 2019," Hartman told the River News. "We wish Ryan the best in his future ventures."

Rossing has been on paid leave since April 19 when a one-sentence memo was sent to all sheriff's department employees advising that he was not authorized to enter the administrative or secure areas of the department without permission from Chief Deputy Dan Hess or Captain Tyler Young.

Hartman later explained that the decision to place Rossing on paid leave was related to the investigation into an alleged walking quorum of city elected officials in late January.

"We're investigating some potential violations of the civil service rules and regulations regarding the alleged open meetings violation," Hartman said in April.

In early February, the River News sent a letter to Oneida County district attorney Michael Schiek requesting an investigation into an alleged walking quorum involving Rossing, alderpersons Steve Sauer, Andrew Larson and David Holt and mayor Chris Frederickson.

That request was sent on to Hartman, who referred it to the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) because one of his officers was involved.

The newspaper was concerned that the five elected officials may have violated the open meetings law when they composed and signed a letter to council president George Kirby questioning his ability to continue to serve as Common Council president while at approximately the same time Rossing and Holt made and then withdrew requests for an agenda item for the Common Council to discuss Kirby's possible removal as president.

The letter was sent in response to a controversy that erupted Jan. 28 when Kirby refused to take part in a council meeting in an effort to draw attention to $13,000 in furnishings city administrator Daniel Guild bought for his City Hall office without approval from the council (but with Frederickson's OK).

Kirby opted to sit out the Jan. 28 council meeting and attempted to address his colleagues from the podium as "a taxpayer." When he was not allowed to address Guild's spending (because the topic was not on the agenda), Kirby left the council chamber, leaving the group one person short of quorum until an ill Andrew Larson was mustered in.

In response to Kirby's Jan. 28 protest, Guild reached out to attorneys at the League of Wisconsin Municipalities to seek information on how to remove a council president. In interviews, Guild has said he sent the inquiry on behalf of the mayor and members of the Common Council. At the same time some combination of Sauer, Rossing, Larson, Holt and Frederickson circulated a signed letter to Kirby suggesting he consider stepping down as council president.

"Some of us would like to inquire further if you feel you have the composure necessary to continue to serve as Council President. Given recent events, perhaps it would be more comfortable for you to not continue in this capacity?" the letter said in part.

It was the circulation of this letter that led to the River News' concern regarding a potential walking quorum.

Earlier this summer, Schiek declined to press charges against the five elected officials but called it a "close case."

Heather Holmes, general manager of the Northwoods River News and Lakeland Times, then resubmitted the allegation as a verified, or notarized, complaint - an action which would enable legal action if the district attorney did not prosecute within 20 days.

"We firmly believe it was a mistaken decision - even Mr. Schiek called it a very close call - and that the council members and the mayor engaged in a walking quorum," Holmes said when she resubmitted the complaint. "The arguments are the same, but this time around we have explained them in greater depth. It's really not a close call."

In a July 19 letter to Holmes, Schiek said he had not changed his mind.

Attorney April Rockstead Barker then prepared the court complaint, which was filed July 31.

Hartman noted Rossing's resignation ended his department's investigation.

"No findings were made due to the resignation," the sheriff said.

Rossing issued a written statement to the River News confirming his resignation. It is published here in its entirety.

"As is publicly known, I was one of several individuals under investigation for an alleged open meetings violation connected to my duties as the District 8 Alderman for the City of Rhinelander," Rossing wrote.

"The state's Department of Justice was requested to conduct the investigation, and due to my employment as a detective with the Oneida County Sheriff's Office, an administrative review was also conducted, and I was placed on administrative leave pending its outcome. Upon reflection, I wish I could change or do things differently involving the actions that led up to the allegation of an open meetings violation. I have learned some valuable lessons through all of this. Due to the investigation into the open meetings violation, I have chosen that it would be best for me and my family to seek employment with another law enforcement agency, which presents new opportunities for us. I consider myself fortunate to serve as a law enforcement officer, and though I am relatively new to elected office, I am grateful to also have the amazing opportunity to represent and serve my neighbors on the City Council. I intend to continue serving the public in both of these capacities going forward and in a manner that makes sense for me, my family, and local taxpayers. While I do not intend to comment further on this matter, I do want to take this opportunity to thank all of the dedicated men and women at the Oneida County Sheriff's Office with whom I have served. I have enjoyed the experience of working in a variety of different law enforcement roles, and I consider myself blessed to have had these opportunities."

Rossing also confirmed he has decided to continue his career with the Eagle River Police Department.

According to Eagle River Police Chief Christine Dobbs, Rossing has been hired by her department as a patrol officer.

"Officer Rossing started with the Eagle River Police Department on August 5, 2019, as a full-time patrol officer," Dobbs said in an email to the River News. "Officer Rossing comes to us with an exemplary work record and employment history. We believe he will be an asset to our department and community."

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