Editor's Note: This article was updated at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
A confidential letter about the City of Waukesha’s future water service area that was “leaked” to the Waukesha Freeman ticked-off Town of Waukesha chairwoman, so she an emergency meeting over the release of the document.
Angie Van Scyoc, while calling for the city to hold the person who leaked the document accountable, asked the Town of Waukesha Board of Supervisors to officially share the information as the city is viewing it as a public document since it was released to the Waukesha newspaper in its weekly meetings packet two weeks ago.
“I am personally incredibly disappointed that we are in this situation,” said Van Scyoc. “We were working in good faith with the City of Waukesha.”
A voicemail has been left with Mayor Jeff Scrima seeking further information about how the document was released. The Waukesha Common Council will meet about the document during its meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
A portion of the Town of Waukesha’s land has been included in the City of Waukesha’s future water service area as Waukesha looks to purchase Lake Michigan water from Oak Creek. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has informed the Town of Waukesha it has 30 days to determine if it wants to be considered in the city’s future water service area from when Waukesha enters into an agreement with a Lake Michigan supplier.
While Waukesha’s and Oak Creek’s common councils have come to a tentative agreement, that agreement is on hold following a controversial Public Service Commission decision about Oak Creek’s water rates.
The letter from the town outlines its terms to be included in the city’s future water service area – an area that was put together by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. The terms include compensation for future annexations, no operation of high-capacity wells in the town and donating land that is being considered for purchase by the city for high-capacity wells to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
- The document is attached to this article.
The town board met in an emergency meeting fashion because Van Scyoc was informed Tuesday that the document was going to be considered an open record by the city. Van Scyoc called the meeting to make the board aware of the situation.
Van Scyoc wanted to make it clear the Town of Waukesha has not yet made any decisions.
Supervisor Joe Banske was adamant that he didn’t want to release the document, although it was leaked in some way. He voted against releasing the document, although the remaining four supervisors agreed to release the document.
“If your neighbor is swimming in the cesspool … why are you going to jump in there?” Banske said.
The agenda for the emergency meeting was posted at 12:42 p.m. – just two hours before the meeting is scheduled to take place. Town of Waukesha Chairwoman Angie Van Scyoc told Waukesha Patch the meeting had the limited meeting notice because “it is an emergency meeting.”
She later told the board she was informed at noon that the Waukesha's city attorney's office had decided it was a public record because it had been given to one media outlet.
Here’s what Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen’s Open Meeting Compliance Guide says about the necessary time to post an agenda before a meeting:
The provision in Wis. Stat. § 19.84(3) requires that every public notice of a meeting be given at least twenty-four hours in advance of the meeting, unless “for good cause” such notice is “impossible or impractical.” If “good cause” exists, the notice should be given as soon as possible and must be given at least two hours in advance of the meeting. Wis. Stat. § 19.84(3).
No Wisconsin court decisions or Attorney General opinions discuss what constitutes “good cause” to provide less than twenty-four-hour notice of a meeting. This provision, like all other provisions of the open meetings law, must be construed in favor of providing the public with the fullest and most complete information about governmental affairs as is compatible with the conduct of governmental business. Wis. Stat. § 19.81(1) and (4). If there is any doubt whether “good cause” exists, the governmental body should provide the full twenty-four-hour notice.