Tension at Rhinelander City Hall includes alleged hostile work environment, 'political hit jobs,' possible physical altercation by alderwomanSubmitted: 03/14/2019
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter

Tension at Rhinelander City Hall includes alleged hostile work environment, 'political hit jobs,' possible physical altercation by alderwoman
RHINELANDER - Earlier this week, by one vote, City Administrator Daniel Guild survived a common council proposal calling for his suspension.

In a letter, city employees said Guild creates a hostile work environment and accused him of "political hit jobs." Those employees presented a declaration of no-confidence on Monday night against Guild.

One high-level city employee even said on Thursday he or she has considered quitting because of Guild's leadership. Newswatch 12's is not identifying that source.

But the tension in city hall may have also crossed beyond words to a physical confrontation between an alderwoman and a city contractor. That encounter could lead to criminal charges against alderwoman Dawn Rog.

On Feb. 21, in the basement of city hall, Rog approached city IT contractor Peggy Schauer, who was trying to work on computer servers.

"Told me to get out, get out now, you're not touching anything, you're not changing any backups," Schauer told police investigators.

Schauer, who runs Tomahawk-based Technology Management, told police Rog shouted at her to leave before pushing her, then threatening to have her arrested.

"'I look forward to seeing you in jail' or something like that," Schauer recalled Rog telling her.

The IT contractor said she was doing the work on servers with the permission of Guild, with whom she had just met.

While accompanied by her lawyer, John Hogan, Rog later told police she was looking out for taxpayers by keeping Schauer away from the servers.

"Rog stated if she believes that a crime is occurring, she has the responsibility that the situation be stopped," a police report reads.

Rog said Schauer lunged at her, and her response was fairly passive.

"[Rog's] finger which was extended out had lightly touched against Peggy's coat in a sweeping motion," read Rog's description to police in the report.

"Everybody was very civil when we left the room," Rog told the investigator.

But, after investigation, Vilas Co. Sheriff's Det. Sgt. Louise Horn recommended criminal charges for disorderly conduct and misconduct in office against Rog. Vilas Co. conducted interviews in the case as an outside agency, but the Oneida Co. District Attorney's office has the choice whether to press charges.

That office said Thursday the case is under review.

But Schauer thinks the city should go even further.

"I feel she should lose her job over this, and I am not kidding. There's nobody that should represent the city of Rhinelander that treats people like this woman does. She is one scary psycho. I am scared of her," Schauer told investigators.

Neither Rog nor Schauer responded to calls for comment on Thursday.

Guild was open about criticizing Rog in his conversation with police, although he didn't witness the incident. Guild called her "erratic" and "quick to hostility."

"Rog not only wants to hurt her enemies but destroy them," Guild told police, according to the report.

Guild, the city administrator, is feeling heat himself.

Rog was one of four council members voting to suspend Guild on Monday. That motion was defeated on a 5-4 vote, with Mayor Chris Frederickson casting the tiebreaking vote.

That same day, Public Works Director Tim Kingman, City Clerk Val Foley, Deputy Clerk Mary Stoll, Utility Billing Clerk Beth Mannikko, and Guild's assistant, Stephanie Rajnicek, signed the letter with the no-confidence statement against Guild.

City employees told Newswatch 12 Guild regularly makes them feel uncomfortable, even though he often doesn't arrive to work until the afternoon.

It appears the criticism isn't unanimous, however.

"I can assure you that Kingman [who addressed the council] does not speak for the majority of City Employees," wrote Rhinelander Police Sgt. Kurt Helke on Facebook.

After Monday's council meeting, Guild left for two weeks of vacation. Mayor Frederickson declined an interview on Thursday afternoon, citing his work schedule. But Frederickson said he approved the vacation a long time ago.

Frederickson won't say why he cast the deciding vote not to suspend Guild on Monday night, saying there was an ongoing investigation.

Several community members also addressed the council on Monday. Mike Michalak was one of them. Michalak is a radio host and small business owner in the Rhinelander area, and has covered city government for more than 40 years.

"Things are a little bit incongruent right now. Is it broken? Yes, it is. Is it insurmountable? No, it's not," Michalak said on Thursday.

The overall tone coming from city hall bothers him.

Michalak says civility has been lost, and it's put a stain on the city.

"Are there good things being done? Yes, there are. But unfortunately, they're being overshadowed by all the other garbage that comes along with this," he said. "They need to get together and move as one. Are there going to be differences of opinion? Absolutely, there are. But you can be civil about it. We've lost that civility in many cases, and that bothers me."

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