Mayor responds to allegations
Magee calls them ‘misleading and harassing’
By Bert Lehman
Mayor Judy Magee denied the allegations leveled against her by Tricia Rose in a Chapter 17 complaints, and in many instances called them “misleading and harassing.”
Magee’s responses to the allegations were released Oct. 21 along with the agreement between her and Rose.
Click to read the complaint-response documents
Rose first filed a Chapter 17 complaint with the Clintonville Clerk against Magee on Dec. 5, 2014. The document requested a “speedy” hearing. On Dec. 2, 2014 Rose filed another document amending the document she filed on Dec. 5.
On March 10, Rose filed another document with the city clerk, referring to this document as a “final revised copy of the Chapter 17 Complaint Charges to be considered against Mayor Judy Magee.”
At a Feb. 10 city council meeting, the council approved hiring the law firm of Davis & Kuelthau, S.C. to “fulfill and discharge the duties as the statue requires.” Attorney Jim Kalny of Davis & Kuelthau, S.C. was selected for this task.
Also at this meeting, City Attorney April Dunlavy told those in attendance that the city would move forward with an investigation of charges.
“The purpose of the investigation would be to determine if there is sufficient evidence to support the investigation or whether the city ought to even move forward to the hearing stage in case of the charges being fraudulent or frivolous,” Dunlavy said at the Feb. 10 meeting.
Kalny told the Tribune-Gazette on Oct. 24, that he didn’t conduct an investigation. He said he looked at connecting the allegations to a rule or statute that was allegedly violated.
“That was really my role, to take the complaint and put it into a form similar to what a DA (district attorney) might draft, or what you might see in civil court. Here are the facts and here’s what it violates,” Kalny said.
He added, “Nobody dug into the facts. That would have been the purpose of the hearing.”
The Memorandum of Agreement called for Kalny to “consolidate and redraft the documents filed as a Chapter 17 document and the amendment and the amendments thereto, such that all charges, the facts related to each charge, and the rule of law alleged to be violated by each charge are presented in one document (the Updated Complaint).”
According to the Memorandum of Agreement, Rose was notified on two occasions — Feb. 19 and March 4 — by Dunlavy that Rose needed to post a bond of $1,000 in order for the complaint process to continue. The bond was required by state statute. Rose paid the $1,000 bond in March.
On April 13, Rose filed another document pertaining to charges against Magee, as well as a document verifying the content of the document.
According to the Memorandum of Agreement and Settlement Complaint document, none of the documents filed by Rose with the city clerk were verified as provided in Section 17.16(3) Wis. Stats.
“There was some confusion over the term verification at one point, that the complaint had to be verified,” Kalny told the Tribune-Gazette. “And when I first looked at it for conformance with the statute, I noticed that it wasn’t verified.”
Kalny said verification is simply the accuser swearing that everything they are stating is true and correct to the best of their knowledge.
A short time later the Clintonville City Council scheduled a hearing regarding the complaint. This hearing was scheduled for June 15.
While discussing scheduling issues, Magee and Rose agreed to meet to discuss a possible settlement. This meeting took place July 1. Rose and Magee reached a settlement at this meeting, according to the Memorandum of Agreement. It was approved by the city council on Oct. 21.
In the first allegation, Rose alleged Magee increased the settlement benefit for former City Administrator Lisa Kotter without authority and contrary to the city’s personnel policies on vacation. It alleged Magee approved the carryover of Kotter’s unused vacation without council approval.
According to documents containing Magee’s response to the allegations, Magee denied this allegation and denied violating any city policy. Magee stated the city’s policy regarding vacation carryover doesn’t apply to the city administrator position. She also denied “Kotter received any payment that was not directly authorized by the city council.”
In the second allegation, Rose alleged Magee altered official records. This also pertained to Kotter’s vacation carryover. Rose alleged that Magee “sometime prior to April 15, 2014, Mayor Magee inserted on the yearly vacation log for Kotter the date of 2/26/14 adjacent to her signature and noted that it was ‘OK to carryover’ unused 2014 vacation time. On April 15, Mayor Magee changed the date to April 15, 2014.”
In Magee’s response she denied this allegation. She stated she made an error when writing the date, and transposed numbers when handwriting the date. She then stated she used White-Out to correct the error. She concluded, “That the Complaintant filed an action based on Exhibit B simply shows the Complaintant’s allegation is misleading and harassing.”
In the third allegation, Rose alleged misconduct in office by Magee. Rose stated Magee made a written statement which she knew was false. The statement Rose referred to was in a memo dated June 1, 2014 about Magee’s veto of the council’s action to suspend Kotter.
The statement was, “For almost three weeks I have respected the Council’s actions to investigate our City Administrator and assure the taxpayers and citizens that no wrongdoing or misconduct took place. As of May 27, 2014 that investigation was complete and the Council was given the report from Attorney Warren Kraft.”
Rose alleged that statement was false because Rose alleged wrongdoings were discovered against Kotter, and there was more to investigate.
In Magee’s responses, Magee denied the allegation. Her response also included, “This statement is not only true, but it shows the dedication the Mayor has to the City of Clintonville.” It further stated Kraft completed his investigation and provided the city council with an oral report about the investigation.
She concluded, “The Complainant filed an action based on this letter simply shows the Complainant’s misunderstanding of the law and the Mayor’s actions. Such an allegation is misleading and harassing.”
The Tribune-Gazette looked back at the meeting notes form the June 10 city council meeting. Whether the investigation was over was debated by the council. During the meeting, Greg Rose, Tricia’s husband, who was a council member at the time, insisted the investigation was not over, and there was more that needed to be investigated. Also during that meeting, Kotter asked that five items alleged from the investigation be revealed to the public. The council did not release those items. The Tribune-Gazette was also denied the investigation results when it tried to obtain them via open records request.
In the fourth allegation, Rose alleged improper appropriation of funds. She alleged Magee had the public finance manager issue a city check for $12,538.08 to Tapco Traffic and Parking Control for traffic signs without council approval.
In her response, Magee denied this allegation. Magee stated “the city council has authorized the Mayor to make certain expenditures on behalf of the City Council and such expenditures do not require City Council action. This is common practice.”
She concluded, “That the Complainant filed an action based on this expenditure simply shows the Complainant’s misunderstanding of the City Council’s operations and the Mayor’s official capacity. Such an allegation is misleading and harassing.”
In the fifth allegation, Rose alleged more improper appropriation of funds. She alleged Magee directed the public finance manager to issue a city check in the amount of $203,577.70 to the City of Clintonville Utilities without council approval.
In her response, Magee denied this allegation. She stated the funds weren’t misappropriated because the check was voided and never cashed.
She concluded, “That the Complainant filed an action for misappropriation of funds based on a check that has been void and therefore funds that were never distributed shows the Complainant’s desire to simply harass the Mayor and waste the City Council’s funds investigating an action.”
In the sixth allegation, Rose alleged Magee released confidential information and closed session material. This allegation pertains to Magee releasing the agreement between the city and Kotter when Kotter resigned.
In her response, Magee denied this allegation, stating the “document is a public record that must be disclosed upon request pursuant to the Wisconsin Public Records Law.” Also, the agreement included a stipulation that that document be treated as a public record.
In the seventh allegation, Rose alleged Magee destroyed public records. She alleged Magee and Kotter “removed all papers, files, calendars and documents from the Administrator’s office in City Hall and destroyed documents.” Rose also alleged Magee obtained Kotter’s cell phone and erased the contents.
In her response, Magee denied this allegation. She stated the allegation was “baseless” and “unsupported by documentation, proof, or reasonable specificity.”
Magee acknowledged that she assisted Kotter in cleaning out her office after her resignation. She provided a list of items taken from the office, which she said none were items that “constituted public records.” Magee also stated Kotter turned her cell phone over to Clintonville City Clerk Peggy Johnson. Magee concluded, “The Complainant’s allegation is not supported by fact, mischaracterizes the proper procedures and safeguards used by the Mayor in dealing with the resignation of Ms. Kotter, and are harassing in nature.”
The Tribune-Gazette referred back to the agreement between the city and Kotter, and found that one of the stipulations of the agreement was for Kotter to “make arrangements with the mayor to remove any of Kotter’s personal belongings from city offices.”
In the eighth allegation, Rose alleged defamation and tortuous interference with business. She alleged Magee had Wayne Gauger create a Facebook page entitled, “Boycott Clintonville Chronicle.” Rose alleged this was intended to harm her business. To support her claim, she included a copy of the police report regarding the incident, which included a written statement from Gauger stating he created the Facebook page after being asked by Magee to do so.
In her response, Magee denied this allegation. The response stated, “The Mayor has never advised, counseled or procured anybody to publish any statements in any forum about any business, including the Clintonville Chronicle.”
In the ninth allegation, Rose alleged election bribery by Magee. She alleged Magee took a local resident to lunch and paid for the lunch. At that lunch, Rose alleged Magee asked the resident to vote for Greg Rose’s opponent in the recall election. She also alleged Magee told the resident to tell his friends to vote that way also.
In her response, Magee denied the allegation, saying the serious allegation isn’t supported by evidence or documentation. “To include allegations of harassment and defamation in the Complaint and then to raise allegations such as Count 9 without any evidence or specificity calls into question the validity of the Complainant’s allegations,” the response stated.
In the 10th allegation, Rose alleged she was being harassed by Magee. She cited Magee sharing a personal email from Rose on her Facebook page on June 2, 2014, Magee yelling at her at a Dec. 9, 2014 council meeting, having Rose’s Rotary membership revoked, and having someone create a false Facebook page to attack her business.
In her response, Magee denied this allegation. The response stated that this allegation “served no legitimate purpose but to intimidate and harass her (Magee).”
Regarding the sharing of an email, the response stated “The Complainant sent an email to the Mayor, and to others on the City Council, stating the Mayor was a ‘coward’ and a ‘disgrace to [her] constituents.’ The email also stated, ‘Shame on you.’” The email was shared on Magee’s Facebook page, but if anyone was being harassed, it was Magee, according to the response.
Magee denied yelling at Rose at a council meeting.
Magee also denied “advocating” for Rose’s dismissal from Rotary Club, and also stated no evidence was provided to support the allegation. In her response, Magee provided a copy of a letter that the Rotary Club sent to Rose terminating her membership.
According to the letter, dated July 14, 2014, from the Clintonville Rotary Club Board of Directors, the board terminated Rose’s membership for the following reasons, ”Disrespectful e-mail to the Mayor Judy Magee; Disrespectful message to Destiny Lamont suggesting she was making up her life threatening illness; destructive e-mail causing our PR Chair to resign his position; Creating strain between our club and the Clintonville Lions Club while on the joint Entertainment Night Committee; Conflict with other members in the club; and Members have considered quitting the club due to your words or actions.”
In the 11th allegation, Rose alleged Magee of personal use of city assets to promote her candidacy. Rose alleged Magee “used city envelopes and letterhead to distribute 50 or more letters to solicit political support from various residents and businesses.” This was in January, after Magee announced her candidacy for reelection.
In her response, Magee admitted to sending the letter, but denied that this action violated the statute Rose referred to.
When the Tribune-Gazette asked Kalny what options the council had regarding the Chapter 17 complaint, he said he couldn’t go into much detail because it was discussed in closed session. He added that the two principal options were having the matter go to a public hearing, or having the council accept the agreement presented to them by Magee and Rose.
The council accepted the agreement on Oct. 28.
As stated in an article in the Oct. 24 issue of the Tribune-Gazette, the agreement calls for Magee to resign on Jan. 1, 2016 and for Rose to withdraw the complaint. The agreement also calls for the city to pay all costs associated with the complaint and agreement. City Administrator Chuck Kell stated those costs are around $50,000.