Some Kronenwetter updates, including a new lawsuit
A lawsuit, a response to the complaint and a media relations dust-up
I’d hoped to bring you information about a lawsuit filed on Monday by Village Board Member Ken Charneski against Kronenwetter. Unfortunately, when I went to the Marathon County Courthouse computers to read it, the actual document wasn’t included in the filing.
It’s an oddity. The case is a writ of mandamus, which typically means you’re asking the court to order a municipality or other agency to perform some action. Those typically don’t come with a financial ask.
The writ is listed, but under documents there are only four “electronic filing notices,” and no writ. I asked the worker behind the Clerk of Courts desk and she is looking into it, with a promise to give me a call.
Charneski responded on Monday to my queries from this weekend’s story on the Village of Kronenwetter Clerk’s complaint against Charneski. Here is the relevant part of the response:
I am planning on providing a full response to your questions, but first, can you send me the full text of the complaint that you have? This is important, as I would want to compare it to make sure that it matches the complaint that the Board received, and that we are on the same page here to begin with.
The person making the complaint has recently told the Board that they wanted the complaint discussed in open session, which I see as a reasonable indication that that person has waived their expectation to privacy. However, that is not their decision to make. Can you confirm that the person who wrote the complaint is the same person who sent you the complaint? This is also important, because if it is the same person, I would think that that effectively bypasses the formalities, and is a confirmation that that person has waived any claim to privacy.
Charneski is correct, that that is not the clerk’s decision to make. There is no expectation of privacy when the entire board is sent an email. That email is now a public record. The only exception I am aware of is if an attorney sent an email to board members under attorney-client privilege. It’s quite irrelevant whether or not the person who sent it to me is the clerk herself or not. (I will not be revealing my source for the email either way, and I explained to Charneski I can’t reveal that.)
Charneski told me he doesn’t believe the facts will reflect positively on Birk-LaBarge when they come out. He says he attempted to have Village President Chris Voll ask the village attorney (he explained trustees are not allowed to ask the attorney questions) about the legalities of how much he can reveal to me.
I’m not sure what to make of this exactly. Clearly the clerk, at least according to Charneski, is perfectly happy to have this discussed in open session - that seems to imply that she isn’t terribly concerned about the facts coming out; especially since, as a municipal clerk, she is well aware of open meetings laws and has probably read the compliance guide multiple times.
As for the Weston clerk portion of last weekend’s story, Charneski described his emails to Weston Clerk Pam Brehm as “upbeat and helpful” and that he would similarly have appreciated a factual correction if he were in error. He says he didn’t present himself as anyone other than a regular citizen asking questions.
I asked Charneski about reputation damage to Kronenwetter and he replied that some applicants to the village said it was my articles that are dragging Kronenwetter through the mud.
So to me, the question in this case is - were my emails harmful in any way to the Village's reputation, or was it the unfounded complaint about them along with publication of that complaint, that gets all the negative attention?
Speaking of LaBarge, an interview she gave to WAOW TV-9 seemed to spark an agenda item on Monday’s village board meeting - and a bit of uproar by some board members. The Jan. 3 story was about Kronenwetter’s record nine candidates for three village board seats, sparking a Feb. 20 primary. In the interview, Birk-LaBarge said the following:
"If you want to see new faces, you want new ideas, and form new relationships?," Birk-LaBarge said. "This is the time to get out there and vote because we really need the votes. We want the best people that the village can have to run it."
Apparently they had asked Voll to do the interview but, since it was during the day and he works, Voll had Birk-LaBarge perform the interview instead. Voll told the board he asked for the unedited transcript but they told him they only kept them for a week.
The comments about new faces and new ideas apparently didn’t sit well with some current board members, as they came up while Voll attempted to keep the discussion to the general topic of employees and media relations. The board sent the item down to the APC committee for further discussion.
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