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Waukesha Town Board can't come to agreement on law firm

Chairwoman wants to address open meetings rules

Nov. 27, 2012

A 30-minute debate that was contentious and heated between Town of Waukesha board members ended without a decision and with a postponement.

At the center of this was whether or not to have the law firm Crivello Carlson provide the town with an educational session on open meetings and open records as well to be a firm that future boards can turn to when needed.

Town Chairwoman Angie Van Scyoc said this request is due to latest allegations brought by Town Supervisor Everett German that the Town has violated open meetings and open records rules.

Having an outside firm would also help everyone, Van Scyoc said, understand the rules. She said German did not follow policy during a recent open records request. The program, she said, would provide the board with some clarity.

Van Scyoc said the cost would be approximately $1,800 for Crivello Carlson's services - an initial $500 plus $170 per hour for the eight-hour education session.

Town Attorney Hector de la Mora said bringing in this firm, which specializes in municipal litigation and provides municipals with general and special counsel, would give the board "a greater sense of confidence" on issues.

"My initial suggestion was having an outsider bring information to you, because that penetrates more than your peers," de la Mora said. "I felt more education is better than less."

Supervisor Brian Fischer, however, was very reluctant to bring in Crivello Carlson, especially if it would be somehow involved in German's notion on the alleged violations, he said.

"I can understand the educational component, but if part of this engagement is coupled up with the aggression thing that German has brought about with Paul Bucher (the attorney German hired to look into whether the Town has made anyviolations) I can't get on board with that," Fischer said. "We're really mixing things that are not to be mixed."

Supervisor Joe Banske brought clarification to Fischer's quandary.

"In this case, we are not the aggressor," Banske said. "We are the responder to the pending aggression and the risk that we have there."

Fischer wasn't convinced.

"It's too messy and complicated now," Fischer said.

Clearly frustrated, Van Scyoc disagreed and after German said this is an attack against him, the chairwoman said "we're not moving forward to attack you Mr. German. We're moving forward for people who can answer questions on it. It's not to hire him against you."

After German questioned whether the town has hired enough law firms in the past to deal with issues, Van Scyoc replied "because you disrespect all of them and don't take their advice and question everything.

"It's simple," Van Scyoc said. "They're specialists. You don't have the general practitioner do your heart surgery. When Mr. de la Mora says this is a specialist for this kind of issue and that's his recommendation, I think generally we respect that. You do hire specialists for specific things."

Van Scyoc said without a resolution in place the town cannot call that specific firm if it has questions on an issue.

But with board members clearly not seeing eye-to-eye on this, de la Mora said his recommendation is to table this matter until a resolution is brought before the Town Board so it is clear on what the supervisors are voting on.

The town agreed to this, but Van Scyoc said "we need to get this educational piece approved."

Jaws of Life approved

Despite having some reservations on its use and the amount of times it gets used, the Town of Waukesha Board voted to approve funding for Jaws of Life for the Town's Fire Department.

Jaws of Life is a rescue extrication tool used to free people from mangled cars and burning or collapsed buildings.

The equipment costs $29,845, but with the $4,000 it will receive on the trade-in and the $5,000 that was raised for the equipment at the Fire Department's annual pancake breakfast in October, Fire Chief Dan Buchholtz said the final cost is $20,845. The money will come from the town's general fund budget.

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