County inches closer to some night meetings

Policy would allow board to convene at 6 p.m. but only if requested by four supervisors, approved by committee
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

The Ozaukee County Board will meet at night on the first Wednesday of the month — but only if four supervisors request it and the board’s Executive Committee approves that request at least 10 days beforehand.

The Executive Committee on Monday endorsed that policy, which was to be considered by the County Board Wednesday, Jan. 5.

The question of night meetings has come up numerous times throughout the decades, this time after Supr. Joshua Haas said numerous people had contacted him about the meeting time since a controversial debate and decision on a constitutional rights resolution in April.

Night sessions, Haas said, would not only accommodate residents who want to attend meetings but also for people who want to run for office but can’t leave work to get to the board and committee meetings during the day.

“The idea is to have meetings where the public could get more involved,” Supr. Paul Melotik, a member of the committee, said. “I think we all agree we like people attending the meetings.”

But some committee members questioned whether people would actually come to a night session and whether they are needed, noting that when an issue is important to residents they turn out at board meetings whether they are at night or during the day.

“Never assume everyone wants to be here at night,” Supr. Rick Nelson, a member of the committee, said.

“This gives the opportunity for that to happen,” Board Chairman Lee Schlenvogt said.

The draft resolution considered by the committee on Monday originally allowed a 6 p.m. meeting on the first Wednesday of the month if four supervisors asked for it and the County Board chairman and vice chairman approved of it.

The committee debated whether supervisors should be able to request a night meeting for either of the board’s two monthly sessions, but took no action.

That was expected to be discussed by the County Board Wednesday, Supr. Marty Wolf, a member of the committee, said after the meeting.

“Why not either meeting?” he asked. “I think it would make sense to add that.”

They also discussed whether more than four supervisors should be able to call for a night session.

Wolf, who helped draft the resolution, said that he believed three supervisors is too few.

“With four, at least you have to call and get some people on your page,” he said.

He originally considered giving any standing committee the authority to request a night meeting, Wolf said, but by allowing four supervisors to make the request would make it easier for night meetings to be considered.  

But Nelson said he wanted to increase that number.

“I wonder why we’re letting four people control what we do,” he said. “I would like to see seven or eight. Then there’s a lot of concern.”

Then there would be concerns with a walking quorum of the board or committee meeting improperly, Corporation Counsel Rhonda Gorden said.

The committee also debated who should decide if the night meeting is approved. 

Wolf said it seemed logical to allow the board chairman and vice chairman to make the decision, but others said putting the decision in the hands of the Executive Committee made more sense.

“I think the Executive Committee makes sense,” Melotik said.

Committee members also debated how much lead time there should be, whether night meetings should be called seven or 10 days in advance.

They decided on seven days after learning that’s the lead time required for any committee or board meeting.

“I think we should keep everything the same,” Schlenvogt said.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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