Terry Friese shared some strong words Monday during the public comment portion of the common Ccouncil meeting. He urged those who know the truth about a letter sent to city council president George Kirby last January to step up and set the matter straight.
9/12/2019 7:28:00 AM 'The truth is known in this room' Taxpayer speaks out in support of Rossing
Rhinelander taxpayer Terry Friese spoke out Monday evening on the controversy surrounding alderman and former Oneida County detective sergeant Ryan Rossing.
As the River News reported last week, in an interview conducted as part of an internal sheriff's department investigation, Rossing admitted to his superiors at the sheriff's department that he lied to former city attorney Carrie Miljevich about who authored a letter questioning the leadership of city council president George Kirby.
The River News has alleged that the Jan. 30 letter - signed by Rossing, three other council members, and mayor Chris Frederickson - constituted an illegal walking quorum, and Heather Holmes of The Lakeland Times has filed a verified complaint to that effect in circuit court
The letter was prompted by Kirby's refusal to participate in the Jan. 28 common council meeting in an attempt to call attention to city administrator Daniel Guild's purchase of $13,000 in office equipment.
According to transcripts and an audio recording of Rossing's interview with sheriff's captains Tyler Young and Mark Neuman, Rossing said he decided to "fall on the sword" for Guild after the city administrator went public with a statement that he did not write the letter but offered suggestions and comments.
Rossing's solution was to take responsibility for writing the letter and tell others to cite him as the author, he told the captains.
"I probably shouldn't say this, but I told our city attorney," Rossing said to the captains on April 19. "I looked her in the eye and I said, 'Yeah, I wrote the letter,' when I didn't."
Rossing also admitted the possibility that he might have told the same thing to sheriff Grady Hartman or to captain Terri Hook, or to both, as part of the "cover-up," though he didn't remember doing so and did not think he actually did.
"That might have been during cover-up mode where I told her that - I don't think I said that I actually drafted the letter," he said. "I don't remember saying that to her like that."
However, after the letter became part of an internal police investigation, Rossing advised the other signers that he would not continue to say he was the author.
(In a related story on Page 5, investigative reporter Richard Moore delves further into the question of who actually wrote the letter.)
It was against this backdrop that Friese approached the podium during the public comment portion of Monday's common council meeting.
"I'm here to support alderperson Ryan Rossing," he began. "I am a citizen. I am a person that has been involved in this community. I am frustrated with our city government right now. We have big issues to address in this community, water quality being one that's at the top of the list. There are other issues that don't seem to be getting addressed that need to be, like missing employment records that have suddenly disappeared which could be pertinent to discovering what has been historically some of the issues in our community. As a city, we are embarrassing ourselves by not finding the solutions. Alderperson Rossing, in attempting to address a concern, has found himself in some difficulty as we know and as we read in the newspaper. Ryan Rossing admitted in the newspaper article last week that he wished he would have done some things differently. I get that. But let's take a look at what alderperson Ryan Rossing did. He admitted lying to the former city attorney to protect people in this room, to take the fall for other people or another person in this room. For those people who know the truth not to stand up and set it straight is a cowardly act. The truth is known in this room. It should come out from people in this room. This man's reputation in trying to protect this city should not be destroyed because of foolishness on the part of other people."
As the council is not allowed to respond to public comment, no one addressed Friese's remarks.
Friese was not the only citizen to address the council during public comment. Former city alderman and county board member Bill Freudenberg expressed concern about "fiscal responsibility in the city of Rhinelander" specifically rising legal costs.
"I really believe we need to get a better handle on this. I understand the change (from former city attorney Carrie Miljevich to the von Briesen and Roper law firm) was what you wanted, what took place, but I'm looking at figures right now that probably exceed maybe five or ten times what our invoices were from last year. That's a big concern to me and it's a big concern to the taxpayers in this city as well. I really believe the council and the mayor need to take better fiscal responsibility as far as what they're doing here. We just need to move forward from here. But, I really believe come this fall when the taxes come out there's going to be a true answer right there."
For more on the bills, see related story in this edition.
The Northwoods River News | Walker Communications, LLC 232 S. Courtney Street, Rhinelander, WI 54501 | Office (715) 365-6397 | Fax (715) 365-6361
Corporate billing office: The Lakeland Times / Lakeland Printing Inc. | P.O. Box 790, Minocqua, WI 54548 | (715) 356-5236 | Fax (715) 358-2121 Members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Community Papers, Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce