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Attorney’s bill sparks combative exchange

POSTED March 15, 2018 2:34 p.m.

SHULLSBURG —In a highly charged atmosphere at the Shullsburg Townsend Center, with 30+ in attendance, at the Shullsburg City Council meeting, several citizens and alders lost composure when discussing the Parkview Development, Wednesday, March 7, 2018.
    Two minutes into the meeting things got testy with Alder Emmett Reilly asking for discussion on a Boardman Clark, LLP bill. Reilly said, “The attorney’s bill is over $7,200 and $6,400 of the amount is at the request of Mr. Wedige to investigate the direct legislation petition that I filed along with Steve Curren. That’s a real waste of taxpayer money. I think it’s atrocious, why not just let the people have a referendum? I spent 45¢ to file the petition…” Alder Duane Wedige jabbed, “That was too much.”
    Reilly continued, “…and you spent $6,400.”
    Alder Duane Wedige said, “I spent what? I requested this? You better take a closer look at the bill bucko.”
    Reilly said, “I did look at the bill.”
    Wedige: “Look at the bill again.”
    Reilly: “This says you were the one.”
    Wedige: “I was the one that what, I was the one that what? Speak up!”
    Reilly: “You were the one that requested it.”
    Wedige: “I requested what?”
    Reilly tried to answer and Wedige spoke over him, “What did I request? Spit it out.”
    Reilly: “You requested an investigation into the direct legislation.”
    Wedige: “Show it to me.”
    Reilly: “Right here (pointing at a bill). You have a copy of this.”
    Wedige: “I want to see your copy, maybe it’s different than mine, because mine doesn’t say that. I didn’t request anything of the kind, bucko!”
    Reilly: “Yes, you did.” Wedige, “No, I did not!”
    At this point Wedige went face-to-face with Reilly.
    Reilly then read the entry on the bill, “Various emails and conference calls…”
    Wedige: “You’re wrong!”
    Reilly: “You were involved in this.”
    Wedige: “Did I do it or was I just involved? Which is it?”
    Reilly: “Both. It’s $6,400…”
    Wedige: “First of all it was $7,200, get your numbers right. That’s only counting February bucko!”
    Mayor Gloria Swenson said, “All right, all right can we…”
    Reilly said, “No, no. That isn’t the end of this. They also investigated…”
    Wedige: “Who’s they?”
    Reilly: “Boardman & Clark, LLP attorney Paul Johnson also investigated a alderman for ethics violation and...”
    Wedige: “Who was that?”
    Reilly: “It doesn’t say, but I know it wasn’t me. Because it says they did an interview with the alderperson and he also did an investigation for an ethics violation. So, evidently there must be an ethics violation here.”
    Alder Cory Ritterbusch interjected, “Emmett you had requested an ethics violation inquiry. So, they investigated it upon your request, and they found out there was no wrong doing.”
    Reilly answered, “I made no request. I have a hard time believing there wasn’t a problem…”
    “You threatened to press charges against Cory for ethics violations,” Swenson said.
    Ritterbush replied, “And I was working on a community project for the community good.”
     “And you said the same thing to me and I had to resign from Advance Shullsburg because of that. And we aren’t supposed to do anything about it?” Swenson added.
    Reilly said, “I don’t know why none of this came to the council for approval to go forward with it. I don’t know who makes these decisions to spend $7,200. At the end of this, there is a conference with attorney Russell regarding Advance Shullsburg. Then after the ethics investigation – Advance Shullsburg was pulled from being the recipient if the city would no longer comply with the covenants. It seems strange.”
    “I want to find out who they were investigating, you don’t know evidently, right?” Wedige said.
    Reilly: “I don’t.”
    Wedige: “Well it sure the hell wasn’t me.”
    Reilly: “And it wasn’t me.”
    Alder Jim Paquette quipped in, “Ridiculous.”
    “There will be another direct legislation petition,” Reilly argued.
    “I certainly hope so,” Wedige argued back
    “Then we can send you the bill for that,” jabbed Swenson.
    Wedige said, “It’s $7,200 and counting and that’s on you (Reilly).”
    Reilly disputed, “I never made a request on any of this, just so you know.”
    Ritterbusch said, “You’ve requested experts to come here and talk about this proposed subdivision and we have had to pay those bills. None of us had made those requests.”
    “They’ve never been here. He was here once in the summer,” Reilly argued.
    “Per your request,” Ritterbusch answered.
    Finally the council took a voice vote on paying the bills with Reilly voting no.
    Wedige said, “You would think he (Reilly) would want to pay the bills that he created.”
    Swenson retorted, “Yea, really.”
    Reilly exchanged back, “I didn’t create…”
    “It’s over! Stop!” Swenson said ending it.
Parkview Development
    An item at the end of the agenda, that was requested to be put on the agenda by Reilly was asking for the Ending the Parkview Development project; Ending all agreements with John and Susan McCoy that are related to the Parkview Development and Ending all agreements with Delta 3 Engineering that relate to the Parkview Development project.
    Swenson recognized Dan Morrissey, Shullsburg School Board president, to speak on the subject.
    Morrissey started by saying, “I saw this item on the agenda and it made me very concerned. As the school board president I’ve been here about the school referendum. The school referendum is about increasing the tax base. I’ve been to the planning commission, joint review board they both approved this. Really, I don’t understand what’s going on. We need to increase the tax base in this community - for the school, the businesses, for the senior citizens. I’ve heard so much negative it just makes me sick and it’s wrong.
    “I took pictures of property that were sold for a dollar (held up a board with six homes pictured). Everybody says no one will build homes in this town. To date these properties bring in $20,000 annually. The senior citizens will benefit from the tax base increase,” Morrissey continued at a higher volume. “We own our utilities include sewer, water, electric. That revenue is based on user fees. You tell me how this cannot be good. I sat here earlier tonight and Emmett, as far as I’m concerned, you’re using this as a platform for the election. If you want to fight with your other aldermen, you’re all protected by errors and omissions.”
    Morrissey continued raising his voice even higher, “If you were attacking me, I would do the same thing. This is wrong. I heard on Facebook, we don’t have any place for seniors and elderly. Per capita we have 56 units available. You are wrong (with a finger in Reilly’s face) and this should stop. Right now.
    Reilly jabbed, “I agree the Parkview development should stop right now.”
    Morrissey continued at a still higher volume, “The land was a gift, it will be a gift and donated for free. The other gift is from the government: the TIF. This is wrong. And you (pointing a finger at this writer) you should be writing in your paper how good it is for Shullsburg.”
    The writer responded, “I am reporting on the meetings, it’s not my job to give my opinion.”
    Morrissey yelled, “But, you have. You have!”
    Morrissey continued, shouting at this point, “All the donations that have poured into this community in the last ten years, it’s sickening. I guarantee that if this is what it comes to, I’ll go to every damn household in this town and if you get elected mayor (again pointing at Reilly) I’ll go and recall you. Because this is wrong and it’s gotta stop.” The audience acknowledged Morrissey by clapping.
    Next Jeff Russell spoke, saying, “The big thing I’m coming here for is I’ve been at a lot of the meetings. I’m on the planning commission and I’ve heard a lot of the presentations regarding the feasibility of the TIF and everything else that’s going on. We’ve made good decisions as a planning commission recommending to the city council to go forward with this plan. It’s been based on good information. The planning commission hasn’t taken this lightly, with several meetings. I don’t understand why you would throw all that out, with all the work that has been done on this by the planning commission.”
    Russell continued, “I read an article in the Republican Journal about a housing study, they’re saying that we have a shortage of housing in this area, and I believe it. When you have new building in a desirable area, I think you will have people come. I hate to think of all the people that would have come to Shullsburg, if we would have had a subdivision. Instead they’ve gone to Benton. I would like to see you continue with the Parkview Development. I think it’s important and we need to do it.”
    Ritterbusch added, “Jeff brings up two good points; the experts that have been brought in about this. Not one of these experts has said this is a bad idea. And secondly he brought up the Benton subdivision; it’s being lauded as progressive and has benefited that community greatly. They’re selling lots for $4,000 to $7,500 each and they’re buying the land at $8,000 to $10,000 an acre. Our land and our lots are free. Their TIF district is made up of a pole barn with a few offices in it. We have a multi-million dollar cheese industry fueling our TIF; it’s much more robust.”
    Swenson asked Reilly, “Why did you put this on the agenda?”
     Reilly answered, “Because I want it to stop.”
    Swenson asked again, “Why? I want specifics.”
    Paquette said, “I don’t think this is worth a discussion.”
    Reilly quarreled, “I just listened to ten minutes of discussion and I’m supposed to stay silent?”
    Paquette said, “Go ahead, hurry up.”
    Reilly continued, “From the beginning, this project has been a mess. I remember coming to the first meeting, Gary Pederson was at the meeting. They didn’t know you had to have three houses per acre to use TIF. I found that on the website. I personally believe development is a good thing; I’m not opposed to development. I am not in favor of this particular plan. I don’t believe three houses per acre will work. I think that most people who want to build that type of house they will be building out in the country.”
    “This does not address the Main Street program recommendation, in that report it said what Shullsburg needs is low or moderate income and senior housing. This is not that. I will contend that several times this week, I’ve had people ask me for senior housing of one or two bedroom apartments. This is not that. I have several people ask me to address the storm sewer problem.”
    Wedige asked, “How many people - two?”
    Reilly snapped, “Can I finish?”
    Wedige: “No. Answer the question. Two?”
    Reilly: “Ten.”
    Wedige: “Woo ten, oh look out ten people asked that question.”
    Reilly looking at Swenson said, “Nobody else was interrupted when they spoke.”
    Wedige mumbled over Reilly.
    Reilly said, “As I stated in the paper, when people call you names, it’s part of the job, just move on.
    Wedige posed, “Let me ask you this Emmett, can we put elderly housing up there? Something you seem to be so smart about this TIF money and that land. Can we do that, yes or no?”
    Reilly answered, “No.”
    “Well then what’s the big deal, it has nothing to do with elderly housing up there. It’s a different ballgame. Maybe we’ll look a senior housing down the road. It’s a different ballgame, right? Yes or no?” Wedige contended.
     “What I can’t believe is that everyone else that spoke here wasn’t interrupted, but I am, and called names. Because I’m looking at a different way of doing things, that this development doesn’t fit Shullsburg and that doesn’t mean I don’t have Danny’s concern about moving Shullsburg forward and creating a larger tax base,” Reilly mentioned.
    Morrissey said, “But Emmett, now is the time.”
    Reilly countered, “I don’t disagree, but this isn’t the project. When this project started, it had four names. It had one set of land. Now it’s a different set of land. There have been no borings done to see if you could build there without hitting rock. There could be shafts or holes or mines. That needs to be checked out.”
    Swenson asked, “Why do you think a third of an acre is a bad thing?”
    Reilly said, “One thing I will guarantee, is that if I’m elected Mayor – they will not be interrupted.”
    Wedige yelled, “Do you still want us to deal with these three pieces of garbage (the agenda items) or not? Make a motion!”
    Reilly contended, “I’m not finished.”
    Wedige made an outburst.
    “Moving forward, there will be another direct legislation petition,” Reilly said.
    Wedige quipped, “That’s good, then we can deny it.”
    Reilly stated, “Do you realize that if this would have been on a referendum a year ago, this would have been settled? Maybe it would have gone forward, maybe it wouldn’t have or maybe it would have had to change. I’ve been very concerned about who is involve and their other involvement.”
    Swenson asked, “Who? What do you mean who’s involved?”
    Reilly said, “That’s as far as I’m going to go.”
    Wedige bickered, “Oh, here we go again, the guy can’t spell anything out, but he can make accusations. Duane you did this, Duane did that. Well Duane didn’t do that. Get the damn bill out and I’ll show it to you! Marsha, can you give me a copy of the bill to show him that it had nothing to do with me? If you’re going to address the person it’s going to, address the right person! And if you don’t know who the hell you’re talking about, you’re not very far awake. I’m still with Jim Paquette and talking to my attorney, is he supposed to be around at the g*****n meeting between me and my attorney, I would think not. So figure that out. Are you going to make a motion on this crap or not?”
    Reilly, “I think my point has been proven that you can’t speak in this council room without being interrupted.”
    Wedige: “Are you going to admit you were wrong about this or not?”
    Reilly: “No, I’m not wrong.”
    Wedige: “Marsha, please get a copy of that bill. I don’t like to be called a liar or a thief! (then looking into the audience) Carl, I don’t like to be called a liar or a thief, just so you know who I’m addressing here. He’s calling me a liar now and I’m not. It’s on the damn bill! You told me I should have been in jail, remember that Carl?”
    Carl Ballard said, “You probably should have been.”
    Wedige: “I guess you would bail me out.”
    Ballard: “I don’t care about your phone Duane.”
    Wedige (back to Reilly), “Are you going to admit you where wrong or not?”
    Reilly: “I’m not wrong.”
    Wedige: “I’m telling the people right here that you are lying and you are wrong. It didn’t pertain to me. If it did, I’d admit it. I’m not afraid of you.”
    Morrissey interjected, “Emmett seize this opportunity, you are taking the opportunity from this community. That’s the bottom line.”
    Reilly: “It’s the wrong opportunity.”
    Morrissey: “We looked at doing this when I was mayor. The land cost $120,000. Now you’re getting the land for free and the TIF is paying for it. It’s crazy!”
    Reilly: “I’m going to talk in general terms, then we’re going to move on, to your delight. If an owner gifts land and puts covenants and restrictions, it can be taken back. Also being able to buy it back for $1 after money has been invested in it. It is wrong.”
    Morrissey: “He (Jack McCoy) does not want the land back! He’s felt untrusted.”
    Reilly: “I’ve sat in this room, when he called me names and he said he was going to do that.”
     “What do you want? Do you want him to give that land to someone else, just do it and give it to the city? Is that what you want? Is that what will put this damn thing to rest? What is it?” Morrissey ended, banging his fist on the table.
    Reilly added, “Several of us have thought, if this land was given with no restrictions, that would be acceptable.”
    Morrissey argued, “Their family (McCoy) has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to this community and never asked for one penny back. This is b******t! And it’s wrong. It’s a joke!”
    “Thank you for your comment. I will now make the motions,” Reilly finished.
    Reilly made three separate motions to Ending the Parkview Development project; Ending all agreements with John and Susan McCoy that are related to the Parkview Development; Ending all agreements with Delta 3 Engineering that relate to Parkview Development. Ritterbusch seconded all three motions. All three motion were rejected 3-1 with Reilly the only one voting yes. Reilly made a blunder when he voted no on the second motion. It wasn’t clear if he was allowed to correct the mistake. The official minutes will be the final word.
    Tom Lethlean began by saying, “I compliment the majority of the council for seeking legal advice for the paperwork that you were served. That’s the only proper accord to go. You can’t be laymen and govern this city without getting legal advice for action initiated by you Emmett. Second, I’m going to ask Emmett, your concern is for low income housing – what have you done as an elected official to explore that and find that answer?”
    Reilly, “Actually, my comment was low and moderate income and senior housing. I have explored it and go into it after I’ve been elected mayor.”
    A collective groan was heard throughout the audience.
    Lethlean said, “You’re using tonight’s meeting as nothing but a political forum and that is wrong as an elected official in a council setting.”
    “I can tell you, this project will not go forward,” Reilly confirmed.
    Wedige said, “Speak up. Say it clear so people way back can hear what you just said. You’re mumbling. I didn’t hear it sitting right here.”
    Reilly spoke up, “This project will not go forward.”
    Wayne Gerht asked, “Emmett, you say you have all these people who are against this, where are they tonight?
    Reilly answered, “They’re afraid of being harassed like I have been.”
    At the end of the meeting Wedige apologized for his actions during the meeting.
    “I want to apologize for getting carried away, because this guy pushes my buttons. I want to tell you one thing. Get on board with this project or get the hell out of the way. We need it!” he stated.
    Then a revelation by Swenson who said, “I was the one who called the attorney. Marsha and I conferred and...”
    “The clerk makes the determination on petitions and I had never gone through this issue before, so I asked for legal advice,” Marsha Einswieler finished.
    The Republican Journal spoke with Swenson after the meeting. She stated that the itemized bill from Boardman Clark and what they spoke about to Boardman Clark was covered by attorney client privilege and shouldn’t have been discussed in open session. Wedige was required to be involved in talks with Boardman Clark, because he is council president.
    Two other citizens from the audience spoke in favor of the Parkview Development.
Utility Committee
    •Electric – Mel Kreul, Electric Utility Director asked the committee to purchase a spool wire trailer at a cost of $14,980. Kreul stated it’s a matter of safety when handling the large spools. The committee approved the purchase.
    The committee also approved a jack hammer attachment for the mini excavator at $5,740 and a transformer for the creamery project at $13,977. The committee rejected the purchase of an extended warranty for the mini excavator.
Public Hearing
    The hearing was asking for input for a conditional use permit to construct a twin home unit on Pickanax Street. No comments were made.
    In other business:
    •Approved the bills for general, water, sewer, electric, pool, museum, library and TIFF funds in the amount of $147,490.
    •A microphone/amplify system was demonstrated by Fuzzy’s Audio of Monroe. A decision will be made at the next meeting.
    •Approved a conditional use application submitted by Joe & Nancy Edge to construct a twin home unit on Pickanax Street.
    •Approved the purchase of three signs at a cost of $525 from Sign to Go of Platteville for the Badger Museum.
    •Approved paying for the restoration of two historical pictures by the Wisconsin Historical Society for $1,470. The pieces will be on display at the museum July 4 only. Otherwise they will be stored at the Southwest Wisconsin Room at UW Platteville. Insuring the pictures will be checked into.
    •Approved an operators license for Haleigh Sonsalla pending background check.
    •No action taken on the sale of property located behind Kingsley Crossing building to Kingsley Crossing. Will come back with an official agreement. A city easement will be added to the agreement.
    •Approved a mobile home park permit for George Ubersox. This permit is renewed yearly.
    •Approved the purchase of a jack hammer for the mini excavator - $5,740; Spool wire trailer - $14,980  and transformer - $13,977.
    •No action on storm sewer project 1 & 2. Jim Paquette went on record saying we don’t have a storm sewer problem.
    •Board of Review is scheduled for June 4.
    •Loras Kruser spoke about the upcoming school referendum. He informed the council a public meeting will he held March 27 at 6:00 p.m.

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