Updated: Aug 26, 2021
My Quest for Transparency has taken another hit when it comes to my experience within Kewaunee’s City Council. For Transparency sake, I have to confess that I am stupid. Maybe gullible is a better word. I know I shouldn’t have fallen for it, but like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football Lucy holds for him, I just keep believing that this time is going to be different. I don’t know how many of you watched or came to the meeting last week, but the mayor asked for our help. He said he had three staff positions to fill and he wanted us, the council members, to help with the hiring process. We could help with the job description and the posting of the positions. We could help choose the candidates. And we could help with the interviews. It’s all on the tape that I can send to anyone who wishes to see it. At the meeting, I thought to myself—a new leaf! I am in. This might be the new, transparent city hall. Great! The mayor asked for volunteers and I raised my hand, as did others. We had a committee and the mayor was to set up a meeting the very next week.
But we did not get a meeting. It’s almost two weeks later and all we got was a letter promising a meeting this past week along with a set of rules. The rules say we can’t interview anybody. According to the mayor’s letter, the most important aspect to hiring is to establish a chain of command. All these new employees will report to the City Administrator. And so only he and the mayor can interview them. Except that the Clerk can interview as well. No, she is not in the chain of command but she is someone who is not on the council. And the Clerk does represent someone who is likely to be in City Hall nine months from now. You see, the City Administrator has spent the first half of the year searching for and interviewing for other jobs in other cities. The fact that he might get one does not mean that chain of command isn’t important. And the Mayor himself is up for re-election in less than nine months. So, it’s possible that the council will meet the new employees for the first time without the Administrator or Mayor who hired them. At least we will have the Clerk to make introductions.
The real reason we have been asked to help was explained to us by the City Attorney. The City Attorney has declared that the only role the Council has in this hiring process, is budgeting the salaries. And once we have approved the pay, we have nothing to do with the hiring process. This has become very clear this week with the saga of Doug the Inspector.
Last week this guy named Doug the Inspector showed up at homes in Kewaunee. When people asked, “Who are you?”, the answer was “I’m Doug the Inspector”. So people came to me asking “ Who is this Doug the Inspector?” I didn’t know! I knew that we have a building inspector that can easily be reached at the City of Rhinelander’s website where he has indicated he has a full-time position. But back to Doug the Inspector. I was curious and a bit worried. Are people just supposed to let Doug the Inspector into their homes? So I contacted City Hall and asked a few questions:
Does Doug have a last name?
Is Doug a city employee?
Does Doug have certification to inspect homes here in Kewaunee?
Who pays Doug?
And here are the answers I got from City Hall:
“Our contracted Building Inspector is apparently working with sub-contractors and/or employees. We do not have details of their names, credentials or their current employers as that is the obligation of the Building Inspector.”
The Building Inspector in Rhinelander sends people to knock on Kewaunee resident’s doors. And apparently, we don’t have a right to know anything about them. But as the City Attorney pointed out, the council approved the budget for an inspector, so any other details are none of our business. This is a view not held by other city attorneys I have talked to.
And that is the saga of Doug the Inspector. And with that story in mind, we the council, are supposed to okay the budget for new employees we are not allowed to meet before they are hired. Like Lucy with the football, there was really no intention to have us involved in the hiring process. The hiring committee is just theater. We are only supposed to approve the budget. Transparency will be pulled away from us at the last moment.
And just to remind people, the last Building Inspector we hired was not certified to inspect buildings. I’m told that the last Grant Writer did not write grants. And they both came from other towns and even other states. So we train people who leave after a year of two. And all we, the council get to do is pay them.
Thanks for listening,
For all blog postings: Wendykewaunee.com