A letter Tricia Rose of the Clintonville Chronicle sent to the state attorney general’s office was discussed at the Tuesday, June 12, Clintonville Common Council meeting.
“Following the decision to appoint an official newspaper, Tricia Rose came to Bill Zeinert’s office and called Steve Kettenhoven to discuss with them the vote on the official paper,” stated a memo from Lisa Kuss to the council. “Following those conversations, I received separate calls from both council members, as they were concerned about an accusation made against (de-facto City Attorney) Tim Schmid.
“The accusation was that Tim had lied about the Chronicle/Rose’s communication with the Attorney General’s (AG) office,” stated Kuss in the memo. “He decided that it was best for him to write a letter to the council summarizing his communication with the AG back in November and December 2011.
“Both Bill and Steve were under the impression that the supposed lie was related to Tim’s statement that the Chronicle or Roses had not contacted the AG back in November as stated in a November 15, 2011 email from Tricia to (Clerk-Treasurer) Peggy Johnson. At the December 2011 regular meeting of the council Tim stated that the AG did not receive anything from Tricia Rose in the past month,” said Kuss. “Tim also suggested that this time I called the AG’s office to verify one more time about the possible communication. I called the AG on May 9 and spoke to Connie Anderson. She again confirmed that the information received by Attorney Schmid was correct that in November and December nothing was received at the AG’s office from anyone at the Chronicle. However, Connie said there was something more recent that she would have to get back to me on.
“Based on the May 9, 2012 phone call made to Connie Anderson at the AG’s office, I received a letter from Kevin Potter,” Kuss continued. “I then consulted with Tim Schmid, who concurred that I could use city funds to pay for the open records request invoice of $9.85 as it pertained to city business. I paid $0.15 more than the invoice to get the letter sent to District Attorney John Snider from the AG.”
Kuss went on to discuss the accusations made in the Chronicle’s letter to the AG. Kuss, Schmid and Magee felt it was important to bring facts forward to the council as there were multiple untruthful statements and inaccuracies in the letter.
“The letter claimed that Bill Zeinert got a contract for the countywide Joint Effort Marketing plan because of his influence on the city council,” said Kuss. “When the council voted on the marketing plan, Zeinert abstained, but it was omitted accidentally from the minutes. We went back and verified the vote tally with the Clerk, and found that he had indeed abstained. The letter to the AG says that he did not abstain, which is not true.
“The letter also states that Zeinert should have resigned from his position on the council when he was awarded the contract,” Kuss said. “The contract was awarded by a board of 16 members, and it was a unanimous decision. The city had nothing to do with selecting his firm; they only voted on whether or not to participate in the marketing program.”
“I have no problem with how this was handled,” said Schmid. “The complaints made in the Chronicle’s letter to the Attorney General were based on false information.”
The letter also attempted to pry into Kuss’ personal life, regarding her divorce. She selected Schmid to represent her in the divorce proceedings.
“To represent someone on a private matter is not related to the city,” said Schmid.
“It’s my personal life, and I have the right to choose who I want to represent me,” said Kuss.
Another Kuss family issue was brought up in the letter, but Kuss told the council that the matter was closed by those who dealt with it when it occurred.
The letter also alleged corruption within the city’s finances, and alleged that Kuss negatively influenced the council with regard to selecting an auditor.
“I have never been dishonest with you,” Kuss told the council. “Changing auditors was never discussed by the Finance Committee. I have no control over who you select as the city’s auditor, I just advise based on the value of continuing to use the same auditor that we have used in years past. Schenk is external-they have nothing to do with the city. They are an independent entity that comes in and performs an audit.”
The letter goes on to state that a local township chairman, Lynn Jepson, said that he feels there is money unaccounted for. Kuss said that she had talked to Jepson, and there was a difference in the interpretation of contracts. Kuss said that Jepson told her he has no problem with the city’s finances, but disagrees with some of the interpretation of fire call contracts.
Further allegations of financial peril were also discussed. Kuss explained that the city now has $6 million more in value than was initially projected by Ehlers last year, which lowers the city to 62 percent of its debt capacity.
“Municipalities can’t file for bankruptcy,” said Kuss as she addressed another accusation in the letter. “We have to make good choices and do our best to stay in a healthy position financially.”
The letter went on to allege that Kuss had put a “gag order” on council members, telling them not to speak to the media. Kuss explained that this was not the case.
“You’re free to talk to whomever you want,” she said. “I told Tricia that my staff would not be communicating with her, as city ordinance states that I am the media contact for city business. I feel that we need to have organized information going out through similar sources. I never indicated to any council members that they are not to speak to the press.”
The letter goes on to say that police department officials were investigating a violation regarding closed session meetings.
“This is not true,” Kuss said. “If there had been an investigation, an outside agency would have to come in and investigate us.”
The letter also states that Mayor Judy Magee threatened the Chronicle in a letter, stating that if the paper didn’t change its communication practices, it would not be named official newspaper.
“It was not a threat, she was just being honest,” Kuss said. “She was saying that if there was no improvement, the council would probably not approve the Chronicle as its official newspaper.”
The recent letter to the editor that was sent to the Chronicle alleged that the city is not doing a good enough job of supporting local businesses.
“A letter to the editor appeared in the Chronicle a few weeks ago. It stated that at least four local businesses were not happy with the amount of support the city gives to local businesses,” said Kuss. “I talked to those four business owners. Three of the four never saw the letter before it was printed in the Chronicle. Two of those three hadn’t seen the letter when I visited or called days after the paper was out. One had seen it in the paper prior to my visit. A fourth saw it but didn’t know it would be printed.”
Kuss then presented information on the city’s support of local business in recent years. The data showed that the city spent $432,000 at local businesses in 2009; $286,000 in 2010; $430,000 in 2011; and $97,000 to date in 2012.
This amounts to about $1.2 million spent locally in the last four years, or roughly 15 percent of the city’s general fund.
The reconstruction of N. Main Street was also discussed again at the June 12 City Council meeting.
After much deliberation, the council voted 9-1 in favor of an option that would allow parking from the bridge to 13th Street, but not in the residential area from 13th Street to Hwy. 156.
Ald. Gloria Dunlavy voted no. No parking will be allowed on the bridge.
Ald. Mark Doornink said the Finance Committee had discussed the matter and tried to look at it from strictly a financial perspective. Their recommendation to council was to allow parking in the business district from the bridge to 13th Street, but not from 13th Street to Hwy. 156.
Dunlavy said she felt there should be parking on at least one side of the street from Harriet Street to the north.
“The people who have homes up there have no access or areas for people to park,” she said. “There are no alleys and no cross streets for people to pull off and park. Can we have parking on N. Main Street from Harriet Street north?”
City Administrator Lisa Kuss said that was a possibility, but the council would have to decide where to start and end the parking area. She recommended that the council not pick different areas here and there, but choose a designated area on one stretch of the road if they wanted to include parking, rather than allowing it in sporadic areas. Kuss said to add parking on one side of North Main in a smaller, defined area like Dunlavy suggested would cost an additional $175,000 to $200,000.
Ald. Mike Hankins thanked all who came to the meetings with ideas.
“I think it’s been a good process,” he said. “Even if we have parking on just one side, it requires the city to purchase land from homeowners and it will cost more money that we don’t have. Trees are also a big concern. I hope we can continue to be proactive; the state is spending $5 million on this project, and we are paying $1.8 million for utility upgrades. I think the ‘no parking’ option is the best one.”
“The laws aren’t always fair,” said Alderperson Bill Zeinert. “The money we are able to put towards road repairs isn’t much, and my concern is that for the sake of parking, we’re considering sacrificing the latitude to respond appropriately in an emergency road repair scenario. I’m for the ‘no parking’ option.”