Your Letters: County Board’s Motion for Reconsideration Violates Procedure and Code of Ethics

in Opinion

Dear editor,

The Marathon County Board of Supervisors (“the Board”) have ethical obligations they must adhere to which are implicated by tonight’s agendized action regarding a motion for reconsideration.

Chapter 2.01 of the Marathon County Code of Ordinances governs meeting procedure and includes adoption of Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised (“Robert’s Rules”) as the parliamentary rules that shall govern. Robert’s Rules promulgate that a motion for reconsideration may only be made the same day as the vote to be reconsidered is taken.  See Robert’s Rules, Chap. 9, Section 37 (b).  Here, the vote to be reconsidered on July 23, 2019  occurred on June 25, 2019.  If the board takes up this action tonight, it is in violation of Robert’s Rules. We expect our children to follow the rules; what message does it send when elected adults don’t follow their rules?  

Further, the Marathon County Ethics Policy (“Code of Ethics”) states that county board supervisors must conduct themselves with competence.  See Chap. 10, sect. A(8).  Tonight, the Board will be presented with a motion for reconsideration of a topic that was voted on after two committees (Diversity Affairs Commission and EEED) and an educational meeting with lengthy public and supervisor comment. The Board voted five (5) days after the educational meeting.  This resolution wasn’t sprung on the Board or its constituents.  There was ample opportunity to review the resolution and discuss with constituents. Presumably, the Board voted after sincere review, reflection and deliberation.  Anyone who changes their vote now may demonstrate a lack of the requisite competence with which they must ethically conduct themselves as board supervisors. Simply put, real leaders don’t change their votes just because they hear opposition post-vote — that is to be expected and a part of the job.

Further, the Code of Ethics requires that county board supervisors exemplify positive leadership through open communication. See id. at A(11).  There is no public comment option at tonight’s meeting.  That is not open communication.  If there is a reconsideration of the Pride Month resolution at tonight’s meeting without public comment, that action also implicates the Code of Ethics because it does not permit open communication with and from the public.

Finally, as elected officials, the Board has a duty to promote confidence in the community and to provide leadership with integrity. See Marathon County Board of Supervisors Core Values.  Seeking to re-vote on a decided issue in violation of procedure and without the opportunity for public comment does not promote confidence nor does it demonstrate integrity. The Board should stand by its vote and the result and move forward on other efforts to improve our county.  I personally worked at length with the Board to have the resolution recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day passed here in Marathon County. I and other members of the Native American community, as well as allies, are now concerned that this resolution could be overturned given the rogue rule application employed by the Board. At what point can the constituents in Marathon County trust that a County Board action is final?  

I would urge the Board to remove this agenda item because it violates Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, it does not permit public comment and it has ethical implications. We have many more pressing issues to deal with in Marathon County – please move forward and focus on those matters.   To wholly abandon the Board’s own adopted process renders the inescapable conclusion that rules don’t matter; that is unacceptable for the constituents of Marathon County. 

Sincerely,

Tricia Zunker

Wausau

Editor’s note: The views of our readers and guest columnists are independent of this newspaper and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wausau Pilot and Review. To submit a letter, email us at editor@wausaupilotandreview.com or mail letters to 500 N. Third St. Suite 208-8; Wausau, WI 54403.

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