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Elk Mound board holds closed session to discuss employment and compensation

By Cara L. Dempski

ELK MOUND — The Elk Mound village board held a closed session under an open meeting exemption designed for discussion of individual employment and compensation, but did not release the session results prior to adjourning.

The president and trustees held the session as part of the November 15 regular meeting, and were joined by interim police chief Mike Tietz and attorney Jason Brasch of Bakke Norman.

The session was closed for “considering employment, promotion, compensation or performance evaluation data of any public employee over which the governmental body has jurisdiction or exercises responsibility,” one of 11 exemptions available to government bodies in the state of Wisconsin.

However, a post-meeting inquiry from the Messenger about the results of the closed session was answered by attorney Jason Brasch, who indicated the items discussed were ongoing, and would be made public record when concluded.

Further inquiry was made the following day by the Messenger, who emailed village president Steven Abraham regarding concerns surrounding the necessity of closing the session.

Specifically, the Elk Mound president was asked to clarify if the session was held to discuss general offerings to a party, or if specific individuals were under discussion. The Messenger noted in the email to Mr. Abraham that the Wisconsin Open Meetings Compliance Guide indicates “it is not the purpose of any exemption to protect a governmental body when it discusses general policies that do not involve identifying specific employees.”

The Messenger also asked about Brasch’s function as part of the closed session.

Abraham’s emailed response indicated the board did discuss specific individuals during the session, and referred the other concerns to Mr. Brasch.

While waiting for Brasch’s response, the Messenger also asked Abraham via email why the agenda did not have a brief description of the business to be discussed during the session, or why he did not provide a short explanation of the proposed business.

According to the Open Meetings Compliance Guide, “merely identifying and quoting from a statutory exemption does not adequately announce what particular part of the governmental body’s business is to be considered under that exemption. Enough specificity is needed in describing the subject matter of the contemplated closed meeting to enable the members of the governmental body to intelligently vote on the motion to close the meeting.”

Brasch’s emailed response to the Messenger’s inquiry indicated the board did meet to discuss individuals, but noted any action taken in the closed session would remain confidential.

He also stated the village has retained his firm, Bakke Norman, to serve as the village attorney, and he was asked to attend the meeting in that capacity.

Another email to Brasch regarding the specific reason he was involved in the closed session did not receive a response prior to publication. Likewise, the second email to Abraham asking why the business to be covered in closed session was not described did not receive a response.

Other business

Prior to closing the session, the board unanimously approved a sign application recommended by the Plan Commission. The sign will be for Karate American, a martial arts school offering classes several days each week at the Community Center.

The board also unanimously approved changing the agency providing background checks for a potential police chief after interim chief Tietz indicated several individuals on the committee recommended the Dunn County Sheriff’s Office be asked to complete the task.

A building permit for Robert and Holly Pierce at 301 South Holly Avenue was also approved during the meeting.