Oberle Accuses Incumbent Town Board Candidates of Breaking Law

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MTT News Desk's picture
Kevin Murphy

Town of Middleton Board Supervisor Richard Oberle alleged that Town Chair Milo Breunig and supervisors Bill Kolar and Tim Roehl may have violated state open meetings law by taking out a group advertisement in the March 28 Times-Tribune.

Oberle contends that the ad copy may show that the three board incumbents discussed town business and “met” to approve it before it was published with their consent.

Oberle said Monday that he has asked the Wisconsin Towns Association to look into his allegation.

“The three are collaborating on issues not properly noticed,” said Oberle. “That shows me they’re talking to each other outside of town meetings.”

The more than half-page re-election ad discusses previous board positions regarding expansion of the Cardinal substation along Highway 14 and electric transmission lines in existence or being proposed. It also attempts to refute the incumbents’ challengers’ allegations about power line and substation siting decisions and payments made to municipalities.

While Kolar declined to comment, Breunig and Roehl were quick to dispute Oberle’s allegations.

“It’s no violation…because we never met together,” said Roehl.

The ad was composed through campaign “intermediaries” and the candidates signed off on it individually without consulting each other, Roehl said.

In a separate phone interview, Breunig echoed Roehl’s remarks, saying, “The three of us never met.”

The ad was based on the board’s recent discussion not to incur more legal expense at this time on the proposed Badger-Coulee power line terminating at the Cardinal substation, said Breunig.

Breunig also said the ad was written by the candidates’ respective campaign “helpers” and not the candidates.

“This is not a ‘walking quorum.’ I’ve always been very aware of what that is, and not just during the election period. We’re not discussing town business,” Breunig said referring to Roehl, Kolar and himself.

A compliance guide to the state’s Open Meeting law prepared by the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office, defines a walking quorum as a series of gatherings among  members of a governmental body who agree “tactically or explicitly, to act uniformly in sufficient number to reach a quorum.”

The guide also states the Wisconsin Supreme Court also has defined that a meeting occurs whenever members of a governmental body convene to engage in governmental business and the number of members present is sufficient to determine the body’s course of action.

Oberle anticipated the incumbents would say that others wrote the ad for them, but he added that it’s hard to believe their claims that they didn’t work together on it.

“I’m sure they’re going to try and weasel out of it, but the appearance is they collaborated. Everyone endorsed the ad they all had to discuss what was going in it,” he said.

Oberle said his next step will depend on what the WTA tells him about the incident.



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