STAR JOURNAL REPORT
A little more than two weeks after being voted out of her job as Rhinelander city administrator, Kristina Aschenbrenner has filed an open meetings law complaint with the Oneida County district attorney’s office against the six City Council members who terminated her contract.
Aschenbrenner, who had been the city administrator for almost a year, told the Star Journal that she expected the council members to conduct her annual performance review at the Aug. 29 meeting when they instead voted to terminate her contract with the agenda calling for a closed session to consider employment, promotion, compensation, performance or evaluation of the city administrator.
“I don’t feel that they properly noticed the meeting,” said Aschenbrenner, who claims the six council members “went off topic” while meeting in closed session.
As an “at-will” employee, Aschenbrenner said the council had the ability to terminate her contract on a majority vote, but she believes the proper way to do that didn’t take place at the Aug. 29 meeting.
However, city attorney Carrie Miljevich disputes Aschenbrenner’s complaint that the council violated the open meetings law by contending those accusations “are entirely without merit and unsupported by well-settled law in Wisconsin.”
Miljevich cites a state Appeals Court decision related to the city of Neillsville dismissing a public works director 20 years ago to support her argument.
“I am confident the Oneida County district attorney and any court would agree there was no violation of the open meetings law with the guidance of an appellate court decision with nearly identical facts,” she said.
In anticipation of possible legal action brought by Aschenbrenner, the City Council held a special emergency meeting with a closed session Sept. 6 and unanimously passed a resolution to keep all information regarding her employment with the city confidential, unless required to disclose by law.
While the Sept. 6 meeting was taking place, an email message was sent out to local media with annual performance review forms about Aschenbrenner filled out by the two council members who opposed her firing, Steve Sauer and Tom Gleason. Those two council members now face complaints brought by two other council members, George Kirby and Mark Pelletier, accusing Sauer and Gleason of violating the city ethics code and state open records law.
Council members had voted Aug. 8 to approve the review forms for them to fill out about Aschenbrenner.