One of the eternal questions governmental bodies face is the extent to which public comment should be allowed during a meeting.
That subject came up during Platteville Common Council debate on the proposed merger of the city’s taxi and shuttle service.
City resident Rich Christenson accused at-large Ald. Amy Seeboth-Wilson and Director of Public Works Howard Crofoot of steering the process so that only one bidder submitted a bid for taxi and shuttle service, and for favoring UW–Platteville, Seeboth-Wilson’s employer, in creating an agreement between the city and UWP for shuttle service.
“Regarding the shuttle bus, Seeboth-Wilson obviously has a terrible conflict of interest,” said Christensen. “It took too long for the other council members to recognize this. Seeboth-Wilson has controlled the information from the start, and continues to exert undue influence over the process. The shuttle bus is likely the main reason she ran for a position on the Common Council. … This is about a couple hundred thousand dollars for the department she manages.”
Christenson also criticized the Southwest Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, which created a study proposing the merger of the city taxi and UW–Platteville shuttle.
“Take special note of how many times SWRPC’s favorite word, ‘potentially,’ was added to a sentence when they wanted the Common Council to believe something would happen that they knew wasn’t going to happen,” he said. “SWRPC worked with and for Seeboth-Wilson and delivered a presentation to the Common Council that was intended to mislead. There is really no other way to explain so much manipulated information and so much needed information that was not presented.”
Christensen also criticized figures Crofoot presented to the council about ridership and spending.
“The multiple budgets he drew up are in no way adequate, are not accurate, and seem intentionally misleading,” he said.
After Christenson’s comments, District 1 Ald. Barb Stockhausen said she was “concerned about abusing and making comment on one of our council members. I think this council needs to talk about these things as a group, and to attack one member is simply not appropriate.”
“If the city council wants, we can explore policies on how to govern public comments so that it’s not an attack environment,” said City Manager Larry Bierke.
“I would encourage people to consider their comments before they make them,” said Common Council President Eileen Nickels.
Seeboth-Wilson didn’t vote on either the bus contract or the agreement with UW–Platteville.
Common Council agendas ask that speakers “please limit comments to no more than five minutes.” Speakers can speak during the Citizens’ Comments, Observations and Petitions portion of the meeting, or during council debate on an action or Information and Discussion item.
The Platteville School Board has an Opportunity for Public Input portion of its meeting agenda, available for board members and meeting audience. The agendas state that input is limited to 15 minutes total and three minutes per speaker.