District Attorney Says Discussion on Lake Park Project Wasn't Illegal
Hoping to thwart suspicions that previous meetings and conduct were "sinister, Waukesha County DA Brad Schimel explains why discussion was better left for a full council and another date.
Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel wanted to stress that "no violations occurred" in an appearance of Mayor Kathy Chiaverotti and three Aldermen at a citizens group meeting where discussion was held over the purchase of property on Little Muskego Lake.
The meetings were mentioned in a letter from Schimel to Aldermen Kert Harenda, Neil Borgman and Dan Soltysiak, which ultimately meant that the council could not discuss the lake park Tuesday night in its regular session.
Debate over the purchase of parcels of land on Little Muskego Lake has been the focus of Common Council meetings since Jan. 24, as the council has been nearly split on the purchase of 4.6 acres of land along Janesville Road at a cost of $3.55 million.
"I hope no one is trying to spin this matter into something sinister," Schimel told Patch. "I believe that what happened was inadvertent. The open meetings law was written broadly to make sure that government officials cannot dodge its purposes. Laws with far reach sometimes catch innocent or unintentional conduct in their net."
Schimel said the meeting, or gathering, with a group of citizens was "in no way a violation of open meetings laws, as there was not a majority of council members present."
At one point in that meeting, Chiaverotti was asked to speak about the lake park issue, which she agreed to. Schimel explained that the presence of the three aldermen made her realize there may be an issue going forward.
Schimel said since there was no public notice given about that meeting, any future sessions where council would meet to discuss the lake park would require the full seven-member council in attendance. Until Tuesday night, the full council has been in attendance whenever it has discussed the lake park.
With Alderman Neome Schaumberg absent on Tuesday, the three aldermen would have represented half of the council, and in a tie-breaking vote, the mayor — who was at one of the meetings with the citizens group — would have had to cast it.
Schimel credited Chiaverotti for asking the question ahead of time to avoid a potential violation and noted that open meetings law is intended to "encourage full and open debate of an issue."