Special Board Meeting – Aug 11, 2014

closed-sessionA Special Board meeting was held after the committee meetings. The action items lasted about 7 minutes before going into closed session. One of the items listed for closed session was “to discuss … competitive bids submitted by interested vendors”. It is believed that the competitive bids relate to the hiring of outside companies to evaluate district morale and the reasons for excessive staff resignations.

Bob Kastengren, WGSD Board President, was apparently unaware that it is a violation of state law to discuss competitive bids in closed session without an explanation as to how the item meets closed session criteria.  My request to Mr. Kastengren for explanation begins at 7:20 in the video below. Mr. Kastengren then asked that the referenced portion be struck from the closed session agenda, but board member Dan Jensen soon trumped Kastengren’s response. Jensen asserted his contention that it was fine for the board to proceed as long as they sought a legal opinion from the district attorney afterward in order to see if they need to change their procedures in the future.

It should come as a surprise to none that the person responsible for having a basic understanding of the state open meetings law, District Administrator Chris Joch, sat silently and offered no direction to Mr. Kastengren. Mr. Jensen’s desire to move forward and refer to legal counsel only “after the fact” is consistent with his repeated lack of respect for open government and transparency.

See the blue box below for excerpts of state law that support my viewpoint, or better yet read only a single page, page 21, of the Wisconsin Open Meeting Law document for a thorough explanation on the use of closed session for discussing competitive bids.

Action items prior to closed session:
1. Take action to approve lunch/milk prices for 2014-15
2. Take action to approve statement regarding Fund 80 programming/revenues & expenditures
3. Take action to approve open enrollment exception applications
4. Take action to approve LTD insurance vendor
5. Take action to approve any maintenance projects
6. Take action to approve updated contribution amount to Fund 73/OPEB*

Governmental officials must keep in mind, however, that this exemption applies only when “competitive or bargaining reasons require a closed session.” When a governmental body seeks to convene in closed session under Wis. Stat. § 19 .85(1)( e), the burden is on the body to show that competitive or bargaining interests require closure. An announcement of a contemplated closed session under Wis. Stat. § 19 .85(1)( e) that provides only a conclusory assertion that the subject of the session will involve competitive or bargaining issues is inadequate because it does not reflect how the proposed discussion would implicate the competitive or bargaining interests of the body or the body’s basis for concluding that the subject falls within the exemption. Wirth/Lamoreaux Correspondence, May 30,2007.

Consistent with the above emphasis on the word “require” in Wis. Stat. § 19.85(1e), the Attorney General has advised that mere inconvenience, delay, embarrassment, frustration, or even speculation as to the probability of success would be an insufficient basis to close a meeting

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