Brown County District Attorney David Lasee will send a pair of complaints against city officials to a special prosecutor, the Green Bay Press Gazette reports. The first complaint, filed by five aldermen, accuses Mayor James Schmitt and several city officials of attempting to deceive City Council about the intent of a proposed loan for the Hotel Northland project and of mishandling funds for the development.
The second complaint was filed by Alderwoman Barbara Dorff. Dorff contends that conversations the aldermen had in requesting an investigation resulted in a “walking quorum,” which is defined at the Wisconsin Department of Justice website as:
A “walking quorum” is a series of gatherings among separate groups of members of a governmental body, each less than quorum size, who agree, tacitly or explicitly, to act uniformly in sufficient number to reach a quorum. A walking quorum may produce a predetermined outcome and thus render a publicly-held meeting a mere formality. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has commented that any attempt to avoid the appearance of a meeting through the use of a walking quorum is subject to prosecution under the open meetings law. Furthermore, the requirements of the open meetings law cannot be circumvented by using an agent or surrogate to poll the members of governmental bodies through a series of individual contacts. The series of gatherings need not be face-to-face. For example, phone calls, email exchanges, and other electronic messaging may suffice.
Lasee told the Press Gazette that he is requesting a special prosecutor because of potential conflicts of interest; his office sometimes has dealings with Schmitt and some of the aldermen involved are also Brown County Supervisors. Dorff told Media Trackers that she believes that if Lasee believes it would be a conflict of interest than he did the right thing by sending both complaints to a prosecutor in another county.