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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 a.

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."

Simple Bacon March 02, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Thanks Patch. That is all good background. It does explain what happened Tuesday night. Unfortunately one answer leads to more questions. If the mayor was present at the Craig meeting in question and she knew the three aldermen were there why did she engage in a conversation that she knew was going to cause a conflict? She recognized it had or she wouldn't have then called the DA. I suppose the aldermen should have left the meeting when they saw the mayor arrive but is that fair to them? If the mayor had simply said "no comment" when asked to discuss the lake park there would be no conflict - correct? The mayor has been in politics a long time and it seems like she would have known to not put the council in this position. Likewise with some of the aldermen. But if they were present to listen to their elected official they were sitting ducks when the mayor arrived and offered opinion on the lake park. It seems very suspicious, and convienent, that the mayor can create this issue and now effectively silence debate depending on how many aldermen are present at council and how she believes those present are going to vote.
The Anti-Alinsky March 03, 2012 at 01:49 AM
Bacon, you figured it out. The mayor purposely spoke to the issue so that she would have to remove any lake park discussion for the February 28th meeting. Come on, do you really think this was some sort of conspiracy? OK, it doesn't make the February 28th meeting. It will make the March 13th meeting.
Denise Konkol March 03, 2012 at 04:59 PM
I'm trying to imagine what would have happened if the mayor just said 'no comment' in a situation where a group of citizens had invited members of the common council to address their concerns over the lake park project.... Likely she would have also been lambasted because she's 'tone deaf' or dodging questions. Am I close? Debate is not silenced on this issue, just deferred to March 13 when all members of the council can be present.
Fact_Or_Crap March 05, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Crap

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