Oneida County detective sergeant and Rhinelander city alderman Ryan Rossing has been placed on administrative leave, according to a memo authored by chief deputy Dan Hess dated April 19.
The one-sentence memo was sent to all sheriff's department employees under the subject Employee status - Detective Sergeant Ryan Rossing.
It reads: "Detective Sergeant Ryan Rossing is not authorized to enter the administrative or secure areas of our facility without the authorization of Captain (Tyler) Young or myself."
The Northwoods River News obtained a copy of the memo via an open records request.
In a phone interview Monday morning, Oneida County Sheriff Grady Hartman confirmed that the decision to place Rossing on paid leave is related to the ongoing investigation into an alleged "walking quorum" of city elected officials in late January.
"I can't say a lot about that right now," Hartman said. "We're investigating some potential violations of the civil service rules and regulations regarding the alleged open meetings violation."
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 Common 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 withdraw 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 at the Jan. 28 council meeting 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 for the meeting), 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 step 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.
(There is confusion as to who actually drafted the letter. According to records obtained from the sheriff's department, Rossing told DCI investigators it was Guild who drafted the letter, however Larson told the same investigators it was Rossing who wrote the letter. "Ryan Rossing called Larson, and told Larson he was drafting a letter asking about Kirby's actions," according to a summary of Larson's interview included in the records obtained by the newspaper. "(Larson told investigators) Rossing said it was written by Rossing and Sauer, and that they showed it to Daniel Guild for Guild's input." In a separate interview, Frederickson told the DCI investigators that Sauer had told him Rossing wrote the letter.)
Hartman said Hess made the decision to place Rossing on administrative leave after the two consulted on the status of the investigation.
The sheriff said it was too early to determine whether Rossing will be brought in front of the civil service commission for possible disciplinary action.
He declined to specify what triggered the suspension or what possible repercussions Rossing might face from the department.
After the DCI investigation is complete, Schiek will decide whether any charges should be filed related to the alleged walking quorum.
Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at email@example.com.
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