Alderman Lee Emmer gestures while making a point during the Nov. 25, 2019 meeting of the Rhinelander Common Council. During the meeting, Emmer asked that a number of items, including a discussion of the ongoing police investigation of the city administrator, be discussed at the councilís next regular meeting. Emmer also asked for agenda items related to PFAS contamination of municipal wells and the winter shutdown of the Stevens Street project. A public informational meeting on the Stevens Street project has also been scheduled for Dec. 4.
11/27/2019 7:30:00 AM Council to discuss possible suspension of administrator Dec. 9 2020 budget approved
Four days after law enforcement officers from three separate departments executed two search warrants at Rhinelander City Hall, the city's elected officials gathered Monday evening in the Common Council chambers for a regular council meeting.
City administrator Daniel Guild, who was referred to in the search warrants as a "person of interest" with respect to the six-hour search of City Hall conducted by Oneida, Vilas and Marathon County officers Thursday, was in attendance Monday but the search and related investigation were not discussed.
According to court records, the search warrants were issued in connection with an investigation into altered emails and a missing personnel file.
"Guild, the person of interest in reference to the search warrant, is reported to have committed various acts that could be determined to be misconduct in public office and tampering with a public document," a motion to compel access to the city's server and backup server stated. "As outlined in the search warrant, Guild has engaged in various acts including failure to release public records in response to requests by the media and law enforcement as well as altering email content to present it as the original."
Oneida County district attorney Mike Schiek filed the motion to compel access, which was signed by Oneida County circuit judge Patrick O'Melia.
In the days following the search, some council members expressed concern about Guild's status with the city, however the agenda for Monday's meeting did not include discussion of the investigation or Guild's employment status.
For his part, Frederickson explained he does not intend to comment on the execution of the search warrants as the investigation is still ongoing.
"There's an ongoing investigation and there's really nothing I can say about it at this time," Frederickson said. "We expect due process to happen."
In the meantime, Guild will remain at work at least until Dec. 9. Alderman Lee Emmer initially requested the investigation and potential suspension be discussed Dec. 2, but the council voted 7-2 to keep the Dec. 2 meeting a "committee of the whole" session. That pushed Emmer's request to discuss the investigation and potential suspension back to Dec. 9.
In addition, Emmer requested the council discussed the status of municipal wells 7 and 8, which have been taken offline due to PFAS contamination, (see related story) as well as the winter shutdown of the Stevens Street reconstruction project.
What was on the agenda Monday was the 2020 budget, which Guild described as "pretty consistent with past spending and past spending priorities of the council, give or take a few items."
According to Guild's summary, the general property tax levy for 2020 is $6,009,886, an increase of .15 percent from 2019.
The City of Rhinelander tax rate is 10.75193, meaning the city tax cost to a taxpayer who owns a $100,000 home would be $1,075.19.
The only sticking point during the budget discussion was a concern voiced by Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Lauren Sackett regarding the allocation of room tax funds. Sackett said the 2020 budget shows the city keeping 45 percent of room tax funds, however it's her understanding that state law dictates a municipality cannot keep more than 30 percent of the room tax funds.
City attorney Steve Sorenson stated he believes the budget, as presented, would withstand legal scrutiny, however he stressed the room tax matter is a policy issue to be decided by the council.
Ultimately, the council decided to gather more information from stakeholders and revisit the matter at a later date.
The River News expects to further explore this topic in a future edition.
In other business, Sorenson suggested the panel take some time during a future meeting to discuss policy decisions that will need to be made before the city can officially create an ethics board.
Monday's public comment session featured only two speakers. Eileen Daniel announced she intends to run for the District 7 aldermanic seat currently held by Steve Sauer. Sauer previously announced he will not run for re-election in 2020.
The other speaker was Tom Jerow, who thanked the police department for their recent program that involved walking kids to school.
Heather Schaefer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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