Thursday, May 15, 2008

Why ask the DA to investigate for abuses of the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law?

Sec. 19.81, Wis. Statutes:

A. The Legislature declares that state Policy is to

1. enable the public to have the fullest and most complete information regarding the affairs of government as is compatible with the conduct of government business,

2. ensure that meetings of governmental bodies are held in places reasonably accessible to the public,

3. ensure that such meetings are open to the public unless otherwise expressly provided by law.

I am a conservationist, a citizen mightily concerned about the problem of sprawl, the depletion of groundwater, the quality of water available throughout Waukesha County.

I believe that the Great Lakes Compact, when enacted, may be helpful and useful to Waukesha. But I believe that the mania for secrecy in the Waukesha Water Utility Commission serves no good end. This is a classic example of a small group of citizen-commissioners, serving for decades in relative obscurity on a low-status commission. With each passing year they become more persuaded that they alone know the secret, the path to solution to problems the water utility faces. Fearful of any dissent, the make their plans secretly, misapplying exceptions in the Open Meetings Law.

My theory is that they have persuaded themselves that since they are likely to be embroiled in lawsuits, both as plaintiff and respondent, that they can discuss any and all matters that might be remotely related to those lawsuits under cover of the exemption to the Open Meetings Law that permits, in limited instances, discussion of LEGAL STRATEGY with a lawyer in closed session. In light of Buswell, they appear to this citizen to be way over the line on "reasonableness" as articulated by the Wisconsin Supreme Court last year.

And, so, I have filed this complaint and details of what I see as violating the spirit and the letter of the law, with the district attorney of Waukesha County. It is a citizen's effort, without professional help. But, I believe I have hit the critical issues. This is, in truth, the the battle of development interests against more conservative, more cautious, more democratically-oriented citizen interests.

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Of the biblical allotment of three score and ten I have lived only three of them more than a bicycle ride from one of the Great Lakes. I grew up ten blocks from Lake Erie in the (once Irish/Italian ghetto, now newly-hip) "Near West Side" of Cleveland. I can still cycle to the Milwaukee lakefront in an hour and a half; but, a round-trip has always been more than I would (noror ever did) attempt. -0- I'm a "...somewhat combative pacifist and fairly cooperative anarchist," after the example of Grace Paley (1922-2007). -0- I'm always cheerful when I pay my taxes (having refused--when necessary--to pay that portion of them dedicated to war). -0- And I always, always vote.