Town lawyer: resignations necessary

By Steve Schuster - News Graphic Staff

November 21, 2012

 
GRAFTON Town of Grafton’s legal counsel, Sara MacCarthy, said that resignations from two prominent town positions were in order at the town’s monthly board meeting held Nov. 14 at Grafton Town Hall.

The legality of the newly assumed roles of Amanda Schaefer and Bonnie Bartel (town chairman Lester Bartel’s wife) were called into question under a Wisconsin law that prohibits “double-dipping.”

Wis. Stat 60.323 stipulates that, with some exceptions, “no town may compensate a town officer for acting in more than one office of the town at the same time.”

But Bonnie Bartel and Amanda Schaefer's new positions both had multiple roles. Bonnie Bartel was tapped as treasurer and deputy clerk and Amanda Schaefer was slated to remain clerk, community services manager and now deputy treasurer.

MacCarthy said at the board meeting that the town had conversations with a Wisconsin Town’s Association attorney Oct. 18 and, in light of that discussion, the town should proceed with calling for the two resignations.

“It’s probably not the best way for these positions to be run. I recommended that both deputy treasurer and deputy clerk, those being Amanda (Schaefer) being the clerk and Bonnie (Bartel) as the deputy clerk position resign those offices and assume the original duties they had prior,” MacCarthy said during the board meeting.

In a follow-up interview Monday, town officials told the News Graphic that resignations were actually tendered Oct. 18.

Richard Stadelman, an attorney who also serves as the Wisconsin Town Association's executive director, said it was town of Grafton Supervisor Tom Grabow who was listed in their conversation log book Oct. 18.


Grabow could not be reached for comment, but Bartel said said Grabow had some concerns about the dual-roled positions.

Meanwhile back at the board meeting, MacCarthy recommended that the town “revisit the job descriptions so that there no longer even is an appearance of impropriety or any type of conflict such that was applied and that there could be no objection under (Wis. Stat.) 60.323.”

At the meeting, the board then adjusted the job description titles. The community services manager position will be called clerk planner and the deputy clerk role will be taken away from the treasurer's duties, Lester Bartel said. And according to Schaefer, the change won't affect day-to-day operations. “It’s merely a formality,” she said.

No salary adjustments were made, Lester Bartel said. He did not abstain from the discussion despite community criticism voiced over an alleged conflict-of-interest, being that one of the positions involves his wife.

In a letter to the editor published Nov. 8, town of Grafton Resident Darrel A. Mazzari took issue with Bonnie Bartel's salary increase (to $50,000), alleged conflict and the position itself. He wrote: “When I was town clerk, I did the job, part-time, for a fraction of the money, and while we were in the height of the real estate boom. Today, the agendas are anemic.”

Lester Bartel said the town had previously created the dual-roled positions in the first place only after relying on representations from the Government Accountability Board’s ethics division that the hiring practices would have been permissible in the first place.

Lester Bartel could not recall who he spoke with at the Government Accountability Board.

Reid Magney, spokesperson for the Government Accountability Board, said Monday that Jonathan Becker, the ethics administrator, has no recollection of talking with anyone from the town of Grafton about this issue and can’t recall any conversation with another GAB employee who would have checked with him on the matter.

“Beyond that, we would not give any advice on a matter governing town administration,” Magney said.

MacCarthy did not return several telephone messages left on Monday.

Meanwhile, Lester Bartel said the town did nothing wrong.

“We weren’t violating anything, but it could have been interpreted that way. State law says you can't be compensated for two positions so it’s in everybody's best interest that we had them resign their deputy clerk and deputy treasures positions,” he said.

The board also:

■ Drafted a developer friendly measure on private driveways that will go before a public hearing at the next town board meeting Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. If the measure passes, developers will no longer be required to build a public road in developments with seven homes or less.

“We trying to keep ahead of the planning curve,” Bartel said.

■ Went into closed session for more than 45 minutes to discuss legal strategies in anticipation of litigation over waste management and environmental matters.

A video clip of part of MacCarthy’s remarks can be viewed online at http://bit.ly/towngrafton14nov.




Contact Steve Schuster at or via Twitter www.twitter.com/stevenschuster