Have closed session meetings been used to silently negotiate the selling of city property?
Wisconsin Statute 19.81 (2) specifies that …. “all meetings of all state and local governmental bodies …. shall be open to all citizens at all times unless otherwise expressly provided by law.”
The exemptions to that law are held in closed sessions, and the one most frequently cited as an exemption is Wis. Stat. 19.85(1)(e) which reads: “Deliberating or negotiating the purchasing of public properties, the investing of public funds, or conducting other specified public business, whenever competitive or bargaining reasons require a closed session.”
Since the sale of city property is not the purchase of property nor is it the investing of public funds, then it is the last “or” that has become a catch-all phrase which reads “or conducting other specified public business, whenever competitive or bargaining reasons require a closed session.”. With only one buyer it is not competitive, so does the secret negotiations to sell public property require a closed session? But that is how it has been used for the secret negotiation of the sale of city property to limited liability companies.
The sale of the former city property on which Serv-pro and Fairfield Inn are located was negotiated in closed sessions. There were no prior public notices that the properties were even available for sale. There were no competitive bids and no specified realtor who would receive the commission on the sale of those properties. Why should the selling of city property with buildings be negotiated for sale in a closed session without public awareness that the city even plans to sell the property?
Could the city do the same thing with other city properties such as Dunn Field, the Riviera, or Veteran’s Park? Closed sessions are fine for personnel issues, collective bargaining, and litigation, but not to negotiate the sale of public property without the public’s awareness that the city property is even available for sale. Hopefully, the new city council members coming in, and the influence of the new “gifted” and responsible majority, will be felt in stopping this kind of legally shifting sands kind of downright hidden criminality.
Many businesses in Lake Geneva opened in time for the busy Memorial Day weekend.
The Lake Geneva Visitor Center is now open from Thursday to Sunday and ready to help anyone stopping by. The Farm Stand inside Fancy Fair Mall opened on Friday. The family owning it offers a variety of products that are all locally made, including samples of Door County Coffee. Tristan Crist opened his magic theatre with limited seating and no audience participation. Lake Geneva Canopy Tours has opened once again. Avant, Oak Fire and Speedo’s have opened for indoor seating. Riviera Beach officially opened and people were lined up at the kiosks anxious to reserve their spot on the sand. Starbuck’s in Target opened, but with no seating. The Geneva Inn and the Grandview Restaurant are open and welcoming guests. Many businesses are expecting to open in early June so there is a lot more to look forward to. The Grand Geneva is not open yet but is preparing to re-open soon.