The fallout from the execution of two search warrants at Rhinelander City Hall Nov. 21 continues but city administrator Daniel R. Guild, referred to in police affidavits filed in connection with the search warrants as a "person of interest" with respect to an investigation involving alleged misconduct in public office and tampering with a public document, remains the city's chief executive officer with the full breadth of authority that comes with the position.
The Common Council's Dec. 9 agenda included a notice that the council might convene in closed session "to consider discipline of" Guild, however no closed session was held.
When the council came to that particular item on the agenda, alderman David Holt moved to adjourn. The motion was quickly seconded by alderman Steve Sauer.
While the council was close to the end of the agenda for the evening's meeting, there were a few items left to be discussed including "future agenda items" and "announcements."
Holt offered the following explanation for his motion to bring the meeting to an abrupt halt.
"I will justify the reason for the motion to adjourn," he said. "I do not feel it's appropriate at this time for this council to be discussing this while it's an open situation where we don't have any real information about it."
"We are not at the end of our agenda," alderperson Dawn Rog interjected.
Mayor Chris Frederickson asked city attorney Steve Sorenson for an opinion as to whether the council could adjourn.
Sorenson responded by noting that the council has adopted Robert's Rules of Order, which state that a motion to adjourn in always in order, but he also noted that the "policy and procedure" of the council has been to finish its agendas.
"The problem is you've adopted Robert's Rules of Order and Robert's Rules of Order state a motion to adjourn is always in order, but I think that's contrary to what your policies and procedures are," he said.
As the discussion continued, alderman Tom Kelly suggested the closed session item be placed at the top of a future agenda.
"That way we'd have a whole other 60 items to cover and there's no way you can adjourn," he noted.
When the roll was called on Holt's motion to end the meeting, the body appeared headed toward another tie vote, a common occurrence of late. However, the motion failed 3-5.
Alderman Ryan Rossing joined Kelly, Rog, George Kirby and Lee Emmer in voting against adjournment.
That vote did not end discussion.
After Rog failed to get a second on a motion to enter closed session, Emmer moved to suspend Guild with pay as well as deny him computer access and keys to city buildings.
"I, for one, would like to see due process happen," Frederickson stated, after the motion was made.
At that point, Sorenson asked the mayor for permission to address the matter.
The attorney advised the council that city ordinance and state statutes preclude discipline of a city employee without proper notice.
He also noted that there has already been a formal investigation into the actions of the city administrator and the council made a finding there was not evidence to support discipline of Guild. That investigation, which was related to a letter of no confidence submitted by City Hall employees earlier this year, was conducted by members of the von Briesen & Roper law firm where Sorenson is a shareholder.
"I take you back to the fact that you did a previous investigation and because you've done a previous investigation, and in talking with Mr. (Jim) Macy from my own office and getting the materials from that investigation most of the items that I was able to read about in the newspaper (related to the sheriff's department's investigation) were items that had been part of that original investigation where you made a finding that there was no evidence to support the discipline of Mr. Guild," Sorenson said.
The council could begin a new investigation, however that would require "new charges," he continued.
"You have to remember that, number one, there has been no (criminal) charges filed," he continued. "So there's a presumption of innocence. Also you have to recognize you already made a decision on some of those issues and you don't get to do it over again. You don't get a do-over. So you have to have something new. Now, again, I don't know what the basis is that you want to use but they have to be listed, is all I'm telling you, if you want to do that."
The council could place Guild on paid administrative leave, which would be a non-disciplinary measure, however that would require a finding that the sheriff's department's investigation is impeding his ability to do his job as city administrator, Sorenson continued.
"You'd have to decide that he cannot carry out his duties and responsibilities because of the disruption caused by the search warrant, the tornado that is revolving around that," the lawyer said.
After hearing Sorenson's advice, alderman George Kirby remarked that he sounded like a criminal attorney.
"Mr. Sorenson, you sound like a very good defense attorney," he said.
"I'm more of a prosecutor," Sorenson replied. "I've never been a defense attorney. I've been a prosecutor."
As the discussion came to an end, it was unclear whether the council may revisit this issue during a future meeting.
Officers from three sheriff departments, and the Department of Justice, participated in the Nov. 21 search of City Hall which took place over the course of approximately 6 hours.
According to law enforcement sources, a review of the seized materials is ongoing.
The council did address a number of other topics Monday night including the question of whether it should return to the committee structure.
The River News will report on those matters in a future edition.
Heather Schaefer may be reached at email@example.com.
Posted: Friday, December 13, 2019
Article comment by:
who dreamed up the water run off for home an business owners my building the water goes into the ground not the sewer like alot of places and home owners are getting charged for this is wrong more corruption
Posted: Thursday, December 12, 2019
Article comment by:
Maybe alderman Kirby should start looking for a defense attorney. Since he can't keep his stories straight. For the past two years he's claimed in the media that there were no complaints against Kingman. Now he's saying he was part of a committee dealing with such complaints. Same with Miljevich, denied anything to do with complaints and now to no one's surprise she was also dealing with the complaints. Who are the crooked ones?
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