Updated at 10 p.m. Tuesday to include details on allegations made by Sprager in her letter.
Attempts to uproot the Waukesha Business Improvement District’s Board of Directors fell flat Tuesday morning when a vote of no-confidence against Norm Bruce, the board president, and Lynn Gaffey, a board member, fell short.
Bruce said he wasn’t surprised that board members Chris VanderBloemen and Jeff Barta brought forward the vote of no-confidence. However, the majority of the BID board voted in favor of Bruce and Gaffey.
Later on Tuesday, VanderBloemen resigned, saying of other board members: “Their current plan is to deny that there is a problem."
The vote of no-confidence was taken in the same meeting where board members heard allegations from its Executive Director Meghan Sprager, who caused a stir downtown with her accusing board members of harassment and bullying.
A nine-page letter to BID board members outlines Sprager’s issues with BID leadership, particularly Bruce and Gaffey.
Sprager claims that Gaffey lodged unfair complaints against BID employee John Ward’s work ethic, circulated rumors of Sprager having an affair, and made inappropriate comments about Sprager to other business owners.
At one point, Sprager’s estranged husband received an anonymous phone call telling him Sprager was having an affair.
Additionally, Sprager alleges that Gaffey asked her where she parked her car days before it was keyed and that Gaffey’s husband put Ward in physical danger on a different occasion.
Allegations against Bruce were about their inability to communicate effectively, including in discussions with Mayor Jeff Scrima.
“Since starting in as the BID’s executive director on May 9, 2011, I have come to realize that the organization is very unhealthy, and it cannot continue operating in its current state,” Sprager wrote.
“As presently configured, the lack civil discourse among the BID’s leadership provides a playground for manipulation and excessive bullying that has been documented by downtown business owners and myself," she added. "In my opinion, this is why it has been historically difficult for the BID to retain executive directors and their key personnel.”
But Gaffey denied Sprager’s allegations, calling them “ridiculous" and “baloney.” It’s hard to change behavior or explain behavior if a person is unaware that there are problems, Gaffey said.
“If there were so many problems, why did it take 15 months to be brought up?” Gaffey asked. “I don’t understand. If she didn’t want to tell me, couldn’t she have told somebody else and they would have told me? Nothing ever was said. It is really hard to defend yourself or to help solve problems if they are never brought before you.”
Because of issues brought up during the meeting, an ad hoc committee was formed to address leadership issues and the day-to-day operations of the BID. Bruce, and board members Ron Lostetter and Stephen Kassens will be on the committee.