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BID leaders survive no-confidence vote

Despite Sprager's accusations, BID Board stands pat

Sept. 4, 2012

Before Tuesday morning's Special Waukesha Business Improvement District meeting, outgoing executive director Meghan Sprager handed out a lengthy packet noting her grievances and accusations against BID leaders.

She cited her strained relationship with BID President Norm Bruce and Vice President Lynn Gaffey, noted Mayor Jeff Scrima's involvement and gave examples of the "hostile work environment and civil discourse" that she referenced when she initially announced her resignation a couple of weeks ago.

In the nine-page document, Sprager said she has been accused of having an affair with past President Shawn Reilly and referenced her car getting keyed earlier this year after saying Gaffey asked her where she parks her car in downtown Waukesha and Scrima's connection.

Sprager said Scrima attempted to convince Ald. Roger Patton that he was the one to ask Sprager the question. Sprager then said Scrima reached out to another alderperson who confided in a BID Board member that Patton was the person that inquired about where Sprager parks her car.

"What is truly fascinating is that Mayor Scrima would go to such great lengths to divert people away from the fact that one of his appointees could be involved with this matter," Sprager said.

Sprager made it clear in her letter that she does not believe Gaffey committed the crime but said others do "her dirty work."

"Meghan's allegations are simply false," Scrima said after the meeting. "The downtown does not revolve around one disgruntled employee who has left for another job. The positive experience of Friday Night Live, the Art Crawls and the Farmers Market is due to a collaborative effort by many people. Downtown Waukesha will move forward."

Sprager gave other examples of what she calls Gaffey's bullying and intimidation and Bruce's communication issues with her.

Shocked by accusations

Gaffey, who was on the selection committee to help select Sprager in May 2011, was stunned and saddened by the accusations brought against her on Tuesday and vehemently denied asking Sprager about her car.

"I have no idea what she's talking about," said Gaffey, who was also disappointed by the fact that Sprager also made accusations against her husband, Jerry. "I don't know where she parks her car, and I don't care where she parks her car. Ald. Patton admitted to it."

Gaffey added that she never said or suggested that Sprager should resign, something Sprager referenced in her letter.

"I'm dumbfounded by the accusations," Gaffey said after the meeting. "It's mind-boggling. You can't solve the problems if you're not aware of them, and this was the first time they were being addressed. And 95 percent of what she said is false. She's dragging my reputation through the mud. I've been down here for 15 years and we've accomplished a lot and I don't appreciate what she's saying about me. It's verytragic.

"I never realized she hated me that much."

Ultimately, Sprager asked that the BID Board find Bruce and Gaffey unfit to serve on the BID Board.

The BID Board, however, did not agree with her after a vote of no confidence was denied by a 9-3 vote. Roger Igielski was the only board member not present at the board meeting due to back problems.

"I was surprised not more voted in favor of no confidence," Reilly said.

Differing opinions

Board members Jeff Barta, Christine VanderBloemen and Bill Huelsman voted 'no confidence' in the current leadership.

"If we don't do something, we'll continue to put it off and it will hurt the BID immensely," VanderBloemen said. "I'm just so sick of everybody putting off the important items. We arebleeding and you don't want it to stop."

But the majority of the board members said they felt it was best to just wait until November when Board members' terms are up and Scrima has the opportunity to appoint new leaders.

"Waiting until November is not a viable option," Barta said. "We need to work on the problems and start dealing with them for a better downtown. The best opportunity to do that is ano-confidence vote."

Others like Jess Martinez and Jim Taylor did not have that same viewpoint.

"I don't like the idea of changing leadership," Martinez said. "We have nine pages of accusations and if we give no confidence, in a way we're saying this is all true. I'm not there yet."

Taylor added: "If transition needs to take place then it can take place in November. We'll all have a better idea in 60 days."

Committee is formed

While Sprager had announced her resignation two weeks ago effective Saturday, as did John Ward, the BID's only other full-time employee, Huelsman wanted to work things out and even brought up the idea of keeping both on for six months during the transition period.

But Kerry MacKay, secretary of the BID, and Bruce saw otherwise.

MacKay said one side should not just be blamed and that it's disappointing the BID Board is just now discussing this after 16 months into Sprager's tenure. Sprager noted the BID Board had a special meeting in February to discuss civil discourse.

"This could have been avoided," MacKay said. "I don't see this as just (blaming) one party."

Bruce added: "What I struggle with is how this moves us forward. How do we then restore the confidence in the BID? A lot of things were put on the line. (Meghan's) choice was to resign, not to stay here."

So with Sprager and Ward leaving, an ad hoc committee that consists of Bruce, Stephen Kassens and Ron Lostetter, treasurer of the BID, was put in place during the transition period.

Everyone but VanderBloemen voted for that committee.

Emotional plea

Near the end of the meeting, Sprager spoke and got emotional, having to stop herself once while getting teary-eyed. And while Sprager wants everyone to know the people who she says have shown her disrespect and bullied her, she said finding a way to work together is the only option.

"I thought long and hard about calling the individuals out and I felt very strongly that I needed to do that," Sprager said. "Regardless, that does not take them out of the game and we have to find a way to work with them and removing them from the BID Board is not the best solution. Figuring out how to strike a compromise is, and I'm so sorry it has come to this point."

The Board met for almost an hour and a half in closed session to discuss the conditions of employment involving Sprager's resignation.

Reilly, an attorney in Waukesha, said he was confused by the statute in which the BID Board closed the meeting.

"I was surprised the statute number [19.85 (1) (c)] which is on the employment promotion, compensation or performance evaluation of any public employee," Reilly said. "I can't understand why they were considering her promotion, compensation or performance evaluation when she filed her resignation. It could have been discussed in open.

"I believe the city attorney advised them not to, and I guess I can understand why, (but) I don't think it was closed under the right statute."

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