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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Town Of Peshtigo Has Closed Meeting

Issue Date: September 9, 2020

The Peshtigo Town Board held a special closed meeting on Thursday, Sept. 3 in regards to employment issues and litigation strategy in reference to the water contamination issues.

Before moving into closed session Supervisor Kayla Furton questioned if the meeting was legal without enough specific information explaining what the meeting is about in reference to employment.

The agenda for employment section read, 'Move to closed session per Wis. Stat 19.85(1)(C) considering employment, promotion, compensation or performance evaluation data of any public employee over which the governmental body has jurisdiction or exercises responsibility and Per Wis. State 19.85(1)(f) Considering financial, medical, social or personal histories or disciplinary data of specific persons preliminary consideration of specific personnel problems or the investigation of charges against specific persons except where par. (b) applies, which, if discussed in public would be likely to have substantial adverse effect upon the reputation of any person referred to in such histories or data or involved in such problems or investigation'.

The water issue section read, 'Move to closed session per Wis. Stat 19.85(1)(g) to confer with legal counsel for the government body who is rendering oral or written advice concerning strategy to be adopted by the board with respect to litigation in which it is or is likely to become involved - Water Contamination issues'.

Furton commented she called the Wisconsin Towns Association about the closed meeting agenda and she was told the notice must meet standards specific enough and must obtain enough information in the notice. She said, "I don't see any specific detail".

Chairman Herman Pottratz replied, "We make sure the meetings are in compliance with the open meetings laws. We can't give too much information as to not embarrass or jeopardize the person in question. When dealing with personnel issues, those are sensitive issues and we need to protect their identity. I also called the Towns Association and they did not see an issue the way the closed meeting was presented".

Clerk Clarence Coble added, "When I do an agenda for closed session, I confer with our Attorney and he will defend us if we get in trouble with open meetings law". Furton replied, "I think it is a fair request that you include as much information as possible on the agenda". Pottratz responded, "When we are dealing with personnel issues, those are very sensitive and we can't release too much information so that we can still protect the person involved. The water issue does state what is needed".

Furton responded, "Especially with contaminated water issues, I think that is important and a level of trust needs to be maintained". Town Attorney Dave Spangenberg commented, "We need to protect the integrity and names of those involved. We don't have to give specifics. There are ramifications of having meetings that are in violation of open records. The water contamination agenda item is clearly adequate". Furton then replied, "I don't believe you have to have a blind agreement, it is ok to ask for clarification and I would like to get better clarification. However, I respect your legal explanation and appreciate your transparency".

Pottratz added, "There is some foolishness that is going on asking for this and that, we have to make rules here". Spangenberg ended with "It is not uncommon to use statutes alone when it is a sensitive issue. We would rather error on the side of caution".

The meeting proceeded into closed session and no action was taken on either issue at this time.


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