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April 25, 2019

4/5/2019 4:26:00 PM
Mayor issues press release on 'no confidence' investigation, city attorney firing
By River News Staff

Mayor Chris Frederickson released a statement Friday attempting to reassure Rhinelander residents he is conducting a legitimate investigation into the "no confidence" declaration presented to the Common Council last month by five city employeee who have concerns regarding the performance of city administrator Daniel Guild.

"In response to the Letter of No Confidence filed by several City employees, we have assigned that to outside persons to investigate," Frederickson wrote. "Mr. (James) Macy is an attorney with the law firm of von Briesen & Roper, a firm the City has worked with for several years for employment matters. He was assigned from their Fox Valley Office since he has no history with any of the current people involved. Rich Hermus is a Senior Account Executive with Integrated Public Services which is part of the McMahan group of companies which serves as a resource to municipalities across the state. He is also the past, retired Administrator for the Village of Kimberly. Mr. Hermus as well has no history with any of the current people involved. I selected these two individuals because they are not connected with the City or any employees, including Mr. Guild. I met them both the week they came to Rhinelander to start their investigation. I have directed them to provide a full and fair investigation. Neither I nor Mr. Guild have directed them in any way as to how they should do the investigation or act to what any outcome should be. I have encouraged all employees to fully cooperate with them."

However, the River News has obtained an email that appears to have been sent from Mr. Guild's city email account on March 5 in which he refers to Mr. Hermus as a "valued colleague of mine."

Given the wording of the email, the River News immediately reached out to the mayor to request clarification of his statement that Hermus has "no history with any of the current people involved."

In response, the mayor emailed the following: "I have been assured that he is impartial and his knowledge of each other (sic) is in no way personal."

As this sentence may be difficult for some to interpret, we requested the mayor clarify his statement as to Guild and Hermus's "knowledge of each other."

We also asked the mayor to explain why, given the circumstances, and to ensure the public can trust the results of the investigation, he would not secure the services of an attorney who has no knowledge of any of the parties involved.

As of press time, the mayor did not respond to our follow-up questions. We also copied Mr. Guild with these questions, but he did not reply before this edition went to press.

As a result, whatever "knowledge" may or may not exist between Guild and Hermus remains unclear.

In the press release, Frederickson also called for greater civility among all parties interested in city politics and addressed lingering questions surrounding the termination of city attorney Carrie Miljevich.

"As I have also mentioned, a majority of the City [Council] believed that it was time for different legal counsel and the Council simply expressed its right under the current Services Agreement it has with Attorney Miljevich," Frederickson wrote. "Being municipal attorney is a difficult job and Attorney Miljevich has served the City well. The Council's decision is not a reflection on her work or her dedication to the City. At the same time, a fresh approach with a firm with greater resources can assist the City as well. No one attorney can know everything. With the evolution of municipalities and the multi-million dollar businesses that they are, we will look to providers that can bring a wide range of expertise to the City. For now, and for the next 60 days, Attorney Miljevich is the City's primary legal counsel. Again, we appreciate the work that Attorney Miljevich has done and look forward to working with her positively and professionally during the remainder of her time with us as City Attorney."

The Council voted 5-4 Tuesday, with Frederickson casting the deciding vote, to relieve Miljevich of her duties as of May 31. The vote came as part of a special council meeting called about 25 hours in advance and held on Election Day.

Miljevich has indicated she believes she was targeted for termination because she stood up to Frederickson and Guild.

"I have done nothing wrong. I have given sound legal advice over the last 5 1/2 years, and, quite frankly, I do not understand why this occurred," she said.

"One of the only voices that stood up to inconsistencies at City Hall is now being silenced," she added.

City clerk Val Foley, public works director Tim Kingman, assistant clerk Mary Stoll, utility clerk Beth Mannikko and administrative assistant Stephanie Rajnicek presented the signed "no confidence" declaration to the council March 11.

In the declaration, the signatories accuse Guild of canceling meetings or failing to show up for them, not consulting with department heads on matters in their departments, and not keeping regular business hours.

"The City Administration leadership has become more authoritarian in which we have little choice on what to do, or what to say," the declaration states. "City Administrator instructions have been to respond to select Alderpersons, and in some case, not to allow equal understanding to City Legal Representation or those independently estimated to not represent a consensus of the Council prior to action."

The group has also accused Guild of creating a hostile work environment.

"A lack of transparency regarding his leadership, a deviation from long-standing financial practices, top down and unilateral decision-making, and intimidation as a model of interpersonal communications have quickly come to light his short time here," the declaration states. "Now with the lack of committees, employees and Department Heads no longer have a forum to speak to council. He has taken control of many aspects of our lines of communication."

Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, April 6, 2019
Article comment by: Jeremy Walker

You failed to point out that Public Works director brought forth the "no confidence" letter and that he's the only one refusing to be interviewed. He wanted some type of intervention and now that there is an investigation by outside sources he refuses.

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