WAUKESHA — The Common Council will discuss a March 23 email sent by City Administrator Kevin Lahner to department heads, requesting they and their staff make sure to include him in on all communications with Common Council members, after two council members placed the item on the Tuesday Common Council agenda.
The item was added to the agenda for discussion and possible action by Alderwoman Kathleen Cummings and Alderwoman Cassie Rodriguez.
The email, which was addressed to department directors and executive leadership teams, was made available to The Freeman Friday by Cummings and Lahner.
“Please copy me on all email correspondence and send me a note when a Common Council member contacts you via phone for information,” Lahner said in the email. “… Unfortunately, some council members are abusing this access and causing some members of our staff to be put in uncomfortable situations and/or being asked to perform tasks I would rather not have them perform.”
Lahner said in the email that “while most council members make sure” he is included on their questions and concerns, some do not.
“Making this change will help me keep clear lines of communication with council members,” he said. “I will also be able to make sure that you and your staff are not put in situations where they feel uncomfortable or where you believe your time should be placed on other priorities.”
Lahner said on Friday afternoon that he has not spoken with Rodriguez or Cummings about the email.
“I have no idea why any council member would be concerned about such an email and I would wish that if council members did have concerns that they would come and talk to me directly as opposed to decide to try to have some sort of forum in a public meeting,” he said.
Mayor Shawn Reilly said he feels Lahner’s email is appropriate.
“It’s very appropriate for the city administrator to have department heads tell him what the Common Council members are asking him about,” Reilly said.
However, Cummings said the email sets up a scenario where if a staff person does not report a conversation, it could be considered “insubordination,” creating a “hostile work environment.” Cummings also said the email should have been forwarded to the Common Council. Cummings said rather than council members causing city employees to be uncomfortable, employees are uncomfortable to speak with an alderman due to the email.
“As an elected official, I’m elected to serve not only the members of the 9th District, I’m (also) elected to serve the city,” she said.
Cummings also voiced concerns that the email was in relation to a request she made for receipts for pest control at Prairie Home Cemetery.
Cummings said she hopes the email is rescinded following Tuesday’s Common Council meeting.
Rodriguez did not return a request for comment from The Freeman on Friday afternoon.
The Common Council meeting will be held Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 201 Delafield St., Waukesha. The meeting can also be viewed live online at https://waukesha.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx.