By Shereen Siewert
The North Central Community Services Program Board will no longer allow members to attend closed session remotely, after a Wausau reporter was inadvertently allowed to attend a portion of a closed session meeting discussing Michael Loy’s employment.
Loy, the chief executive officer of North Central Health Care in Wausau, was placed on administrative leave following the May 27 closed session meeting. Generally, meetings of governmental bodies must be held in open session. Closed session meetings are allowed under only specific circumstances including some legal discussions and for “considering employment, promotion, compensation or performance evaluation data of any public employee over which the governmental body has jurisdiction or exercises responsibility.” The media is not allowed.
But on Friday, May 27, NCCSP Executive Committee Chair Kurt Gibbs became aware that Wausau City Pages reporter Brian Kowalski had inadvertently been admitted to about 15 minutes of the closed session meeting. Marathon County Deputy Corp. Counsel Michael Puerner said the error happened while attempting to allow a board member to call into a meeting that was having technical difficulties.
“The NCCSP Board sincerely appreciates the member of the media for contacting a Board member to confirm the closed session nature of the meeting and for the assurance that they will not publish or disseminate the information they heard when inadvertently admitted to the closed session meeting,” Puerner told Wausau Pilot & Review.
Kowalski has not published any information from the closed session for City Pages, but did release a story on his personal blog that referred to the meeting and its content.
To date, county officials have declined to release the independent counsel’s report on NCHC that led to Loy’s suspension. On January 28 and February 12, 2021, the NCCSP Board authorized a third-party review of NCHC’s practices relative to compensation and benefits received by employees. The review was conducted by von Briesen & Roper, S.C., Attorneys at Law of Milwaukee.
The closed session was related to certain benefits granted some NCHC employees, county documents state.
Details of the final report have not yet been released. But three separate sources tell Wausau Pilot & Review the issue centers in part on educational benefits paid to some employees, money designed as incentives to balance the stark pay difference between public- and private-sector employees.
Loy spent three years as human resources director for the city of Wausau before joining NCHC in 2014, first as human resources executive and later as CEO. He was promoted to his most recent role in 2017.
To mitigate such a risk moving forward, any future NCCSP meetings with closed sessions will be scheduled for in-person discussion, Puerner said.