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January 26, 2020

12/14/2019 7:29:00 AM
Alderman responds to controversy surrounding alleged secret closed session recording

Heather Schaefer
Associate Editor


Rhinelander alderman Lee Emmer has issued a statement to the River News in response to the release by a Wausau media outlet of an audio recording purported to have been made during a closed session of the Rhinelander Common Council in September.

The recording, which the River News cannot independently verify as legitimate, appears to capture council president George Kirby commenting on records related to former public works director Tim Kingman, who was fired in June, (see related story) as well as a remark from Emmer about throwing the alleged records on a burn pile.

"At the closed session meeting, Mr. (Daniel) Guild (the city administrator) commented he had none of Tim Kingman's records. ZERO," Emmer wrote to the River News. "George Kirby said he had copies of some records from several years ago when he was involved in an investigation of Tim Kingman and offered to give the copies to the City. Mr. Guild refused the offer saying the documents would be no good since 'chain of custody' was broken and their value would be questionable. I could see at that point George didn't know what more he could do. I said just throw them on the burn pile. I was being sarcastic in response to Mr. Guild's attitude toward accepting the copies."

Emmer also noted that he's extremely concerned that someone apparently secretly audio-recorded a closed session meeting and is hoping the person who made the recording will be identified.

"Bottom line, I certainly did not know someone was secretly recording the closed session meeting," he wrote. "I did not think that could be done. It may not be against the law to record a meeting without the knowledge of others but it certainly seems like it would be unethical. Maybe it is also against City code. I don't know. What I think is probably illegal is releasing that tape without permission of the people that were taped. If it was a city official (and it most certainly had to be), it seems like misconduct in office to me. I think someone should find out who secretly recorded the meeting and also who provided it along with other 'documents' to the (Wausau media outlet)."

"If release of the recording of the closed session meeting and/or release of the recording without permissions is against the law, the persons that did it should be prosecuted," Emmer added.

There is intense interest, at present, in records associated with Kingman because Guild has claimed that Kingman's personnel file was "inappropriately removed" from City Hall. The personnel file and its contents are also mentioned in a federal lawsuit Kingman filed this week against the city, mayor and four of the city's eight alderpersons. (See related story)

According to Kirby, the records he referenced during the September closed session were notes he took while serving on a committee that was handling complaints.

"There is a disturbing claim on social media and some media outlets that claim I have the personnel file of Tim Kingman," Kirby wrote in a statement to the River News, released Tuesday. "This is disturbing for two reasons. 1) I have never had the Tim Kingman personnel file. For a brief period of time, when we had no city administrator, I was on a committee that reviewed any complaints filed against Tim Kingman. As part of that, I had a copy of that complaint for committee discussion. These are the only records of the (sic) Tim Kingman I have ever had and those were copies."

Kirby went on to say he turned over all of those records to the Oneida County sheriff's department in October.

"To reiterate, I do not now have Tim Kingman's personnel file nor did I say I did in open or closed meetings," he said.

Former city attorney Carrie Miljevich, who is also mentioned in the audio recording, has also categorically denied having city records.

"I am not in possession of any City documents since the termination of the contract on May 31, 2019," she told the River News.

"Any claims or suggestions to the contrary are totally false."

Officers from three sheriff's departments, and the Department of Justice, executed two search warrants at City Hall Nov. 21 in connection with an investigation into alleged misconduct in office and tampering with a public document.

In police affidavits filed in connection with those search warrants, Guild was referred to as a "person of interest" with respect to that investigation.

Guild remains the city's chief executive officer.

Heather Schaefer may be reached at heather@rivernewsonline.com.



Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, December 28, 2019
Article comment by: kathryn White

Better question? Why doesn't the person who recorded STEP UP and admit it with an explanation as to WHY??
A "closed meeting" means ONLY certain people were present !! So have another "closed mtg" and ask/demand WHO !!!
Thought this involved GROWN UPS !!!



Posted: Saturday, December 14, 2019
Article comment by: Jeremy Walker

River News always interviews Kirby, Rog, and Emmer. Why not the other council members?



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