RHINELANDER - Lee Emmer took the oath of office at the Rhinelander City Council meeting Monday night. Mayor Chris Frederickson nominated Emmer to replace Sherrie Belliveau in District 3, which the Council voted 6-1 to approve. He received a round of applause from his fellow council members, but the sense of unity didn't last long.
Story By Lane Kimble
"We don't hide taxpayers' money," Alderwoman Dawn Rog said.
Rog laid into City Adminstrator Daniel Guild for the better part of an hour during the meeting. She was upset over about $13,000 Guild used to buy office upgrades without council approval.
"We told the taxpayers we were going to spend this money on salaries and we didn't. We spent it on furniture," Rog said.
The items didn't appear on the agenda under bills and claims for approval at the Jan. 28 council meeting. Council President George Kirby got upset with Guild for not putting it on the agenda, then proceeded to walk out of the meeting that night and restricting the council from starting the meeting due to a lack of quorum.
Monday, some council members shared their frustrations with Kirby's move.
"I feel it is vital that we create a culture where this council works as a collaborative team," Alderman David Holt said.
Holt and Ryan Rossing used the public comment portion to scold Kirby for "embarrassing" the council.
"It's always the little things that keep hanging us up and stop us from truly succeeding and growing as a city," Rossing said during his allotted two minutes at the podium.
Guild's overall department budget had plenty of room for the purchases, with more than 20 percent to spare at the end of 2018. That was largely due to the fact salaries were $42,000 below budget due to no one in the office between Keith Kost's resignation in April and Guild's hiring this fall.
However, the items overran Guild's "office supply" budget by more than $11,000. Guild didn't speak during this portion of the meeting, but told Newswatch 12 last week that Frederickson approved the purchases before they happened.
"I believe Mr. Frederickson ran his campaign on transparency," Rog said. "Was that just a slogan? Was it just a campaign?"
Finance Director Wendi Bixby apologized for confusion on the matter, noting she's only in her second year in that role. She told the council Guild and Frederickson were within their legal right to authorize the purchases without getting council approval first.
Rog suggested the council inspect and approve every budget item line by line each month. That's something Alderman Steve Sauer said would bog down getting important work done.
"If we look through this, we would be making literally hundreds of budget amendments a year," Sauer said.
Rog argued this situation was a clear example of why the council should bring back its Finance Committee. The council temporarily eliminated committees in December.
Her motion to wait another two weeks on approving the purchases passed 5 to 3, with Rossing, Tom Kelly, Kirby, Rog, and Emmer voting in favor and Andrew Larson, Holt, and Sauer voting against it.
"This is a lot of money, this is 13 thousand dollars," Rog said. "I just hope that, in the future, that we can do a better job."
Newswatch 12 reached out to Guild via email for comment on the meeting Tuesday morning. As of 7 p.m. Tuesday Guild had not responded.