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Town of Waukesha board hot over supervisors' meeting with city officials

Henschel, Duchniak say talk involved town's water motion

Feb. 20, 2013

The decibel levels were raised.

And the tension in the room was growing. 

Four hours into a board meeting that had already got a little heated, emotions ran high after it was revealed that town Supervisors Everett German and Brian Fischer held a meeting with City of Waukesha officials without other board members' knowledge.

The meeting came after the town voted unanimously at a Jan. 24 board meeting to include a northern portion of the town in the city's service area in its application for Lake Michigan water.

The town's decision also included a volume of water "in the amount of not less than 0.55 millions of gallons per day to be allocated for the Town."

Then on Feb. 12, City Administrator Ed Henschel sent a letter to the town saying "after discussing this matter with the (Department of Natural Resources), the DNR believes the Town's motion is flawed." In his letter, Henschel says "the volume of water cited by the town is inappropriate and excessive for the amount of land included."

While Chairwoman Angie E. Van Scyoc and Supervisor Joe Banske said they believe there is a connection between Henschel's letter and German and Fischer's meeting, German denied discussing the water service area when meeting with city officials.

"So you talked about donuts or did you talk about the water service area?" Banske said.

"It's none of your business," said German, who indicated Banske and the other board members would find out when he writes up a report. "Your theatrics are superb. I'm not answering any more of your questions."

"Because you're lying through your teeth," Banske fired back.

Banske, who pressed German to reveal information on what was discussed and who was present at this meeting, asked that the town attorney look into sanctions to be put on the two supervisors "for withholding information from the board."

"Try telling the truth," Van Scyoc told German. "We don't have a reason to wait. Who did you meet with?"

German finally revealed Water Utility General Manager Dan Duchniak and Henschel were at this meeting. Henschel and Duchniak confirmed earlier in the week in separate phone interviews that they met with the two town supervisors Feb. 1 at the city's water utility building.

The city administrator said his notes are a little sketchy from the meeting but said "one of the items we discussed was the motion that was passed (from the town) in regard to the water."

Henschel said that's the only meeting he has had with any town officials since then. He added the city was already in the beginning stages of writing the memo that was sent to Van Scyoc last week before he met with the town supervisors.

Moreover, both said nothing that was discussed at the meeting had an impact on their decision on saying the town's motion was flawed.

Henschel said the meeting was at the request of the two supervisors and that it wasn't a secret meeting.

"They wanted to meet to explain what the town's motion was to us and to gather more information because, in their words, they felt they weren't getting all of the information from other town supervisors," Duchniak said.

German confirmed that at the meeting, but maintained, however, that the water decision wasn't discussed.

However, Van Scyoc said the times they met with city officials they always brought back a report and that it was not a secret.

"I don't feel I'm getting the proper information back to me," German said. "(The) decision the board made (on the water) was never discussed."

"And before we left (for the city) we got your permission in one of those closed sessions that you didn't want to come to," said Van Scyoc to German. "So you have always known. Nothing has ever been secret."

Duchniak said on Tuesday that the supervisors made it clear that this was not a secret meeting and "if asked about it they would acknowledge that and made it clear they would not deny having a meeting with us and everything discussed would be public information.

"They were not trying to circumvent the process and we said nothing to them that wasn't already shared with other supervisors or the town chair (at previous meetings).

"It's not uncommon for us to meet with various members of governing bodies to provide them with more information."

But Van Scyoc again questioned German at the Town Board meeting.

"So you meet with the water utility (general manager) and the city administrator a week after we make a vote on the water service area," Van Scyoc said. "You go there and the water service was never (discussed)?"

At one point, German’s wife, from the audience, proclaimed “point of order” and Van Scyoc told her that the board is having a discussion, not to make any more statements or she would be removed from the meeting.

“There was no problem when I communicated with (the city) after the decision,” Van Scyoc added. “Any concern has happened since your meeting. It’s a pretty direct parallel.”

“Not true,” German said.

“Those facts are true,” Van Scyoc said. “Your disingenuous way of dealing with us is really disturbing. You know the difficulty in all of this, despite all of the distractions, we’ve done a good job of protecting the taxpayers of the Town of Waukesha and your antics have really gotten us into hot water.

“But this is the biggest one. The rest we were able to get ourselves out of. I’m not sure we’re going to correct the damage on this one.”

While Van Scyoc maintained there was a correlation between the supervisor's meeting and the city's letter, Duchniak said that's not the case.

"We didn't get into the details of the service area or different options," Duchniak said. "It was more on the motion at that (Jan. 24) meeting and clarifying information what other board members had received. There was no new information."

Van Scyoc added, "We made a good decision on Jan. 24. I continue to stand by it. I feel we have a binding agreement."

After many minutes of arguing about German's and Fischer's meeting, the board decided to send a letter to the DNR reaffirming the town's service map and that the commitments are maintained.

Up next: The next board meeting Feb. 28 at Town Hall will include an open-forum discussion with town auditors and the Town Board.

The Town’s auditors will review the Town’s audit and its annual budget amendment review and a budget amendment resolution will take place as appropriate, Van Scyoc said.

“Because there has been so much controversy with dollars spent, perhaps a million dollars or more that Angie Van Scyoc has misappropriated, those rumors will be set aside and the facts will come out,” Van Scyoc said. “Our work has always been exemplary, as has our audit team and there’s no reasons to have any concerns.”

Van Scyoc said residents can ask her questions as well the Town’s audit team, clerk and supervisors.

“I invite you to bring your neighbors and anyone who has any concerns about the financial work here at the Town of Waukesha or how money is being spent,” she said. “If there are concerns I certainly understand with some of the representations that have been made. We are literally an open book at the Town of Waukesha.”

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