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Tree trimming issue raises accountability concerns

Lack of response to council and supervisor directives raises concern

POSTED March 1, 2018 3:27 p.m.

Accountability became an issue during the Fennimore Common Council meeting Monday evening. Specifically, employee accountability in the face of ignored directives from both the employee’s supervisor and the city council.

The issue arose over a letter requested of a public works employee to property owners Lonnie and Rochelle Holthaus. The letter was first requested by the board on Nov. 27, 2017. The Holthauses had attended a meeting to discuss concerns over tree trimming that was done on their property without notice, as required by city ordinance. City code requires official notice be given, allowing landowners an opportunity to respond before city employees undertake trimming trees on private property within the city.

Director of Public Works Dennis Biddick agreed at that time to obtain a written statement from the employee who did the trimming explaining their decision to perform the work in the absence of a supervisor and without noticing the landowner.

As of Monday, according to Biddick, the request had been made more than once, but the written letter has not yet been received from the employee, prompting Alderperson David Streif to point out that it had been two weeks since the latest request by the city council. Streif also pointed out a need for consequences if the letter is not produced.

Alderperson Sara Brodt asked if there were concerns over culpability on the employee’s part causing delay.

Mayor Ryan Boebel told the council that initially there had appeared to be such concern when he spoke with the employee “awhile ago,” but that he had been under the impression that those concerns were laid to rest and the letter would be written. At this point, he felt the situation had become one that, “is not fair to the Holthauses, and is not fair to the community,” which expects accountability from the city.

This in turn prompted a clearly frustrated Alderperson Jessie Strack to pose the rhetorical question of whether the city lacked policies and procedures for addressing a situation in which a city employee refuses a reasonable directive from a supervisor.

While Strack went unanswered, the board did pass a motion to issue a directive that the letter be written and presented to Boebel by March 2.


For the complete article, please see the March 1, 2018 issue of the Fennimore Times.

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