Group that filed complaints against city council makes open records request

By: Andrew Fefer, Amanda Tyler Email
By: Andrew Fefer, Amanda Tyler Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A group called Voters with Facts made an Open Records request Friday to the City of Eau Claire.

It says spokesman, David Wood, made an Open Records request to the City of Eau Claire Friday for the Minutes of the City Council’s closed sessions on the Confluence Project.

The group claims the Eau Claire City Council broke the law when it went into closed session. The meetings in question were held on April 21st and July 7th. On those two nights the council went into closed session in council chambers to discuss ways to negotiate with a developer on two-agreements for the proposed Confluence Project.

In an email, the group says "The public should have been informed of the purpose of the meetings. The meetings also should have been open to the public, enabling citizens to comment on the discussion concerning the giving of public backed funds to a private company. As such the meeting did not meet the exemption requirements for a closed meeting, and the minutes of the meeting should be available for review under the Open Records laws of the State.”
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- It's a first for Eau Claire’s City Attorney Steve Nick, a group of citizens filing claims that the Eau Claire City Council broke the law when it went into closed session.

The claim says council members violated Wisconsin’s Open Meeting Law when they went into closed session to talk about the Confluence Project.

The meetings in question were held on April 21st and July 7th. On those two nights the council went into closed session in council chambers to discuss ways to negotiate with a developer on two-agreements for the proposed Confluence Project.

“I think it’s interesting that finally they are forthright about what the content of the meeting was and it took our group going to the D.A. and filing a complaint to get them to do that,” Dave Wood said.

Wood was part of the group of 17 that filed the complaints against the council regarding two closed session meetings about an unspecified development agreement.

The group of citizens that filed thinks council members should have been open about the nature of the agreement and where the money would come from.

“We certainly don't believe there has been any violation,” City Attorney Steve Nick said.

During both meetings in question, City Attorney Steve Nick says council members discussed negotiation strategies on two development agreements for the proposed Confluence Project. Nick says those discussions are not in violation of Wisconsin law.

“I have never in the 7 years that I have been on the council discussed anything in a closed session that is not specific to the issue that is publicized,” City Council Member Dave Klinkhammer said Wednesday night.

Klinkhammer is one of nine city council members who voted in favor of going into closed session. He says during those meetings only bargaining strategy was discussed.

“I am totally confident that the records are kept and the guidance from our City Attorney that I will not be found in violation in conducting business in the closed session,” Klinkhammer said.

If the D.A.'s office investigates and determines the law was broken City Attorney Steve Nick says the council members could be fined between $50 and $300 each.

We've left messages with District Attorney Gary King asking about the case but have not heard back.

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- A group of 17 citizens is accusing the Eau Claire City Council of violating the Wisconsin Open Meeting Law.

This week, the group filed complaints against City Council President Kerry Kincaid and other council members. They refer to two meetings on the Confluence Project. One was on April 21 and the other was July 7. The group that filed the complaints said they were about an unspecified development agreement for the mixed-use and arts center components of the project. The meetings were held in closed session. Members of Voters With Facts, a group that has questioned the viability of the Confluence Project, were among those who filed the complaints. Spokesperson Maryjo Cohen said in a release that the complaints are mainly aimed at putting an end to "closed hearings like the ones in question that leave us citizens in the dark." The release also said the council used a bargaining exemption to justify the decision to go into closed session, and should have talked openly about "the nature of the development agreement, the desirability of the agreement, the funding source for the agreement and to establish that the subject of the closed session was truly about bargaining that required a closed session."

On Tuesday night, City Council President Kerry Kincaid said in an email that, to her knowledge, the city had not received a copy of a complaint. She also said that she welcomes an investigation of the complaint, and is confident that the council went into closed session for a valid reason, which was to come up with strategies for negotiations between the city and a developer on two development agreements for the proposed Confluence Project. She added that the final development agreement will be presented and discussed in open session, which will include a public hearing.

The complaints are expected to lead the district attorney to investigate. If he believes there was a violation, the release said that he could "institute action to enforce the law." If that doesn't happen, the citizens could file a lawsuit.


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