Council's "Kraft Defense" Doesn't WashI hope Mayor Paul Esslinger and Deputy Mayor Tony Palmeri remember this post from Mr. Palmeri's blog before the next council meeting.
For the six Councilors to resort to the "Kraft Defense" (i.e. "We were only following the City Attorney's advice.") is crafty, but just doesn't wash. When we elect people to the Council, we should be able to expect that they are capable of comprehending the plain language of the state statutes governing open meetings. We should also expect that they will act independently and according to their own conscience, especially when millions of tax dollars are involved. In the case of the February 14th closed meeting, the impropriety was so clear that the Councilors should not even have had to ask for Kraft's advice before refusing to attend. Or at the very least, they should have listened to the citizens who warned them of the probable violation of law that would take place should they attend, and ask Kraft to solicit advice from the AG's office before proceeding.
As pointed out in two recent articles in the Northwestern:
Bar, tavern fee repeal could have benefit for Esslinger
James Fitzhenry: Ordinance change shows dark side of mayoral politics
Mayor Esslinger has a stake in two items before the council at the next meeting:Why does Mayor Esslinger feel it is OK to participate in this exercise, even though his business will benefit directly from the ordinance?
Oshkosh Mayor Paul Esslinger helped shape a resolution to repeal fees that could save the tavern he owns hundreds of dollars annually if approved by the Common Council next month.
Councilor Dennis McHugh sponsored the ordinance that calls for eliminating municipal fees for inspecting jukeboxes, live entertainment, pool tables, bowling alleys, video games and gambling machines, limited service restaurant inspections, temporary banners and projecting signs. Rolling back the fees would cost the city nearly $50,000 in revenue each year.
Esslinger, who owns Screwballs Sports Pub on North Main Street, joined McHugh for a March 16 meeting with City Manager Mark Rohloff to discuss drafting the resolution. The ordinance had a first reading, but no formal action, at the March 23 council meeting.
Esslinger said he has conferred with Oshkosh City Attorney Lynn Lorenson about McHugh’s proposal and he is “completely within his right” to participate and cast a vote on it.I would hope that Deputy Mayor Palmeri will apply the same logic and standards he applied to former Councils and City Attorneys to this situation and demand Mayor Esslinger to not only refrain from voting on these issues, but to step down for the debate on these items.
Now, it is Mayor Esslinger's own choice whether or not to vote on these issues. He cannot be barred from that (but can be prosecuted/fined for it after if a conflict is determined).
However, by the City of Oshkosh's own Municipal Codes, Mayor Esslinger should not be participating in this debate to the extent he is:
SECTION 2-12 PRESIDING OFFICER TO VACATE CHAIR IN ORDER TO ADDRESS COUNCILDeputy Mayor Palmeri or any other member of the council concerned about good government should demand that the Mayor follow their rules and step down for the discussion of these two resolutions.
The Mayor or other presiding officer of the Council may speak to any matter before the Council provided, however, that the chair is first vacated and the Deputy Mayor or other member is called upon to occupy it temporarily.