Resident files open-meetings complaint in fire talks
Delafield town resident says committee violated open-meetings law
A Town of Delafield resident has filed a complaint with the Waukesha County District Attorney that a committee representing the Lake Country Fire and Rescue (LCFR) has violated the state's open-meetings law. He is also requesting that the City of Oconomowoc, in accordance with the state's open-records law, make public all documents related to discussions of a possible consolidation of the Oconomowoc Fire Department with LCFR.
Edward T. Kranick's complaint alleges state law was violated when representatives of the City of Delafield and villages and Nashotah and Chenequa met in closed session on Thursday, March 14, at Nashotah Village Hall and decided that LCFR would continue consolidation discussions with the Oconomowoc Fire Department, but not with Town of Delafield and Hartland departments.
City of Delafield Alderman Gerald MacDougall and Nashotah Village Trustee Julie Swenson voted against the closed session in a 4-to-2 roll call. Village presidents Rich Lartz, of Nashotah, and Robert Foote Jr. of Chenequa, voted for the closed session along with Gordan Gunnlaugsson of Chenequa and John Ruetz of Nashotah.
Since September of 2012, municipal officials had discussed the possibility of consolidating fire departments from Hartland, the Town of Delafield and the City of Oconomowoc with LCFR. The regional fire department presently serves the City of Delafield and the villages of Nashotah and Chenequa which also share funding for the department.
Kranick submitted Lake Country Publications news stories about the closed session as evidence supporting the formal complaint he filed with District Attorney Brad Schimel.
According to the articles, Committee Chairman Lartz, who had earlier pledged that all consolidation discussions would be open to the public, said the closed session was necessary because the committee was going to have "an internal discussion."
Foote Jr. also defended the closed session.
"There may be certain comments that we don't want to be public because it could hurt the process. We do it all of the time in the Village of Chenequa. If there is something we don't want to be public we discuss it in closed session and then vote in open session on what we decided in closed session," he said.
According to sources, the committee decided in the closed session that the regional fire department would be required to grow "too big, too fast," if it consolidated with all three of the other departments. The committee decided to cut off talks with the Town of Delafield and Village of Hartland but continue negotiations with Oconomowoc since it was the community, according to committee members, that appeared most committed to consolidation.
The committee adopted in a brief public session, with no debate, a resolution describing what it had agreed to in the closed session.
"The committee threw the Town of Delafield under the bus. It never explained why it thought it would be better to negotiate with Oconomowoc than with the Town of Delafield," Kranick said.
He added that Foote and Lartz's reasons for closing the meeting do not meet state law requirements for closed sessions.
"According to the Attorney General, you can't hold a closed session just because someone might say something that is embarrassing," Kranick added.
Kranick said he has filed the open records request with the City of Oconomowoc in an effort to find any documents that support the idea that negotiations between LCFR and Oconomowoc would be more productive than negotiations that would also involve the Town of Delafield.
"There was a private meeting in December that included Mayor Ed McAleer of Delafield, Mayor Jim Daley of Oconomowoc, along with Lartz and Foote. I want any documents that resulted from that meeting that might show why they decided negotiating with Oconomowoc would be better than with the Town of Delafield," Kranick added.
Kranick's parents and grandparents are long-time residents of the Town of Delafield. A graduate of Arrowhead High School and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Kranick, a former state employee, served one term as an alderman in the City of Appleton before returning to live in the Town of Delafield in 2005.
He also sent a letter to the Town Board suggesting "now is the time to have a serious discussion regarding the future of the town owned fire facilities, most notably Fire Stations No. 1 on Maple Avenue."
Kranick's letter, along with a general discussion of fire department consolidation, is included on the Town Board's agenda for Tuesday, March 26, according to town officials.
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