I would like to comment on statements in the Aug. 7 Waupaca County Post from Manawa Police Chief Dave Walker and Waupaca County District Attorney John Snider.
Their statements were in response to an article about an investigation by the Manawa School Board into allegations that an illegal meeting of the Negotiations Committee had taken place and their roles in the incident. That investigation concluded there was absolutely no wrongdoing.
Chief Walker stated he performed a preliminary investigation that didn’t reach any conclusions. Attorney Snider stated he did not know what I knew about any investigation other than the one performed by the school board. What I do know with certainty is that neither of them interviewed any participants in the meeting and therefore neither Chief Walker nor Attorney Snider could possibly have been in a position to make a finding one way or the other.
Following a discussion with Chief Walker, Attorney Snider recommended the board undergo training for open meetings. I am sure the police chief and district attorney have more important matters to attend to than this situation. Perhaps they suggested open meeting training as a resolution because it was expedient for them. It was not, however, expedient, nor was it fair to the participants, to leave an appearance of wrongdoing for an incident that was widely reported in the press and discussed in the community. As stated above, the Manawa School Board’s investigation found no violation of any law by any of the participants.
The police chief and the district attorney chose to curtail their investigation for their own reasons. The Manawa School Board is an independent government entity and its members are elected by the public and must answer to the public.
At its regular monthly board meeting in June, questions were directed to the board during the public comments asking about the status of the investigation. In order to be responsive to the public, and given that a complete investigation was not going to be forthcoming from the police chief nor the district attorney, the Manawa School District undertook its own full investigation, and the results were shared with the public at the July board meeting.
It is important to note that neither the police chief nor the district attorney controverted or denied any of the conclusions of the school district’s investigation that absolutely no improper activity took place. The school board investigation cited the circumstances and statutes that clearly demonstrate this.
In order to resolve the matter, the school board agreed to hold open meeting law training for new members, although such training would not have affected the meeting in question. Current and former board members Paul Sturm, Dave Strebe, Kurt Kreklow, Carl Artz and Stephanie Flynn had previously undergone such training by attorney Dave Forsythe on May 21, 2012, and therefore required no additional training.
I do not wish to belabor this issue nor cause the police chief or district attorney to expend any more public resources on this matter. They are simply doing their job as best as they see fit. With that said, the reputation of the Manawa School District and the reputations of the dedicated and capable present and former board members were being harmed as a result of the inconclusive state in which the police chief and district attorney were willing to leave the matter.
I will leave it up to the wise public to see all the facts and circumstances, and I am sure they will draw the correct conclusions.
Paul A. Sturm