The chairman of the Town of Red Cedar board and two former town supervisors have been fined for violating the Wisconsin open meetings law.
According to a lawsuit filed by Dunn County District Attorney James Peterson, current town chair Ronald P. Robelia, former town chair Charles R. Price and former town supervisor Joseph L. Feeney were accused of failing to post a meeting that took place at Price’s house on July 18, 2011. Also at the meeting was a representative of Preferred Sands, Dunn County Supervisor Jerome Prochnow, Paul Harrison, and Cleo Herrick, acting interim county zoning administrator.
Two complaints were received about a public meeting of the town board that was not being held in a public place. Town Treasurer Jill Haldeman reported that Robelia requested a per diem payment for attending the meeting.
Herrick told an investigator that Price invited her to what was presented as an informational meeting with Preferred Sands about a drying plant the company wanted to construct on land owned by Harrison in Red Cedar Township.
Robelia said Harrison and the sand mining company representative wanted to meet about the zoning changes that would be needed and the process for the approval of the sale. He reported that the meeting lasted about a half hour and discussion centered around what was needed to present the proposal to the town board. Robelia noted that he did not believe it was a township meeting since it was initiated by the landowner.
Feeney said that as a new board member, he asked if it would be a violation of the open meetings law and was assured it would not be since it was an “information gathering”, not a meeting.
He pointed out that no motions were made, nor was there discussion or action taken by board members. Feeney said he and his fellow town board members refused to answer when the Preferred Sands representative asked them if they thought the township would approve a drying plant.
A settlement was reached in which Feeney, Robelia and Price were found to have participated in a meeting that was not posted nor in a public place — albeit unintentionally. They were each ordered to pay a fine of $200.50 by April 15.