Complaint alleges Green Bay aldermen violated Open Meetings Law

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A Green Bay alderperson has filed a complaint with the county's district attorney, accusing fellow city council members violated the Open Meetings Law by holding a news conference to allege wrongdoing by the city's mayor and his senior staff members.

Barb Dorff filed the complaint, stating that five council members acted in their official capacity on Oct. 30 and engaged in a "walking quorum."

Dorff's complaint lists Thomas DeWane, Andy Nicholson, Chris Wery, Guy Zima, and Mark Steuer.

Dorff states that in addition to the press conference, alderman Zima stated he had contacted two other members of the council seeking support for his complaint against Mayor Jim Schmitt. Dorff states that means more than one-half of the council was part of this discussion. Wisconsin law states that a gathering with more than one-half of council members would constitute as a meeting.

Zima and four other alderman appeared at the press conference, calling on the district attorney to open an investigation into the city's handling of financing for the long-delayed Hotel Northland project.

Among his claims, Zima alleges Mayor Schmitt diverted $3.2 million into a bank account held by Keith Harenda, the owner of the Hotel Northland.

Mayor Schmitt and other senior staff members have denied the alders' claims.

Click here for the full story on the complaint against the mayor.

"By naming staff members in the complaint submitted to the district attorney's office, these alders effectively took action on behalf of the Council regarding a matter that falls entirely within the Council's jurisdiction," reads Dorff's complaint.

She alleges that the group violated the Open Meetings Law.

"Given that they are now emboldened enough to blatantly violate the Open Meetings Law means I can no longer give them the benefit of the doubt and stand by as they continue to disregard the Open Meetings Law's requirement for transparency in public business," reads Dorff's complaint.

Dorff says the punishment for the violation ranges from $25-$300 fine, but that's not why she filed her complaint.

"It’s not about the penalty, it’s because I don’t think what was done was the right thing to do and so therefore, I want to call this to the attention of the public," Dorff says.

The alderperson tells Action 2 News that the group of five was not transparent about their actions on Oct. 30.

"They talk about transparency, they were not transparent, they did not include the entire city council in on this, they did not do at an open meeting so there was no transparency on their part either," Dorff says.

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