Oneida County DA: Rhinelander City Council did not violate open meetings law in terminating city administrator
STAR JOURNAL REPORT
Oneida County district attorney Michael W. Schiek has decided not to pursue legal action against six members of the Rhinelander City Council who voted to terminate former city administrator Kristina Aschenbrenner after determining those council members did not violate the state’s open meetings law.
Aschenbrenner had filed an open meetings complaint with the district attorney’s office last month when she alleged the City Council’s Aug. 29 meeting wasn’t properly noticed with the closed session.
However, Schiek noted in a letter sent last week to Aschenbrenner that the issue presented in her complaint had been decided in favor of the municipality in a state court of appeals case related to the city of Neillsville terminating a director of public works and using the same open meetings exemption to meet in closed session as the meeting when Aschenbrenner, who was an “at-will” employee, was terminated as city administrator.
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.
In accordance with Aschenbrenner’s contract, in which could be terminated at any time without reason and without cause by a majority vote of the City Council, she was entitled to receive severance pay equivalent to three months of her salary as well as accrued vacation pay for which she was eligible. Her annual salary was $85,000.