Rhinelander council terminates city attorney amid claims of sexism; alderwoman calls for mayor's resignationSubmitted: 04/02/2019
Story By Ben Meyer

Rhinelander council terminates city attorney amid claims of sexism; alderwoman calls for mayor's resignation
RHINELANDER - Within a 25-hour period, Rhinelander Mayor Chris Frederickson called a meeting, brought City Council into closed session, and cast a tiebreaking vote to terminate City Attorney Carrie Miljevich.

Miljevich says she was "targeted," the victim of a "retaliatory" vote for standing up to the mayor and City Administrator Daniel Guild.

Meanwhile, a city alderwoman is saying the mayor is trying to rid City Hall of women and is calling for his resignation.

"I believe that I'm targeted for reasons that I'm completely unaware of. Perhaps it's my gender. Perhaps it's for telling the mayor 'no,' the city administrator 'no, you can't do that,'" Miljevich said.

Frederickson cast the tiebreaking vote to end the city's contract with Miljevich. The voting followed a common split on the council, with Frederickson joining Steve Sauer, Andrew Larson, Ryan Rossing, and David Holt in voting to terminate Miljevich. Dawn Rog, Tom Kelly, George Kirby, and Lee Emmer voted to retain Miljevich.

Miljevich thinks she was let go because she acted as a legal check on Frederickson and Guild, both in their first year in office. Last month, Guild barely survived a suspension vote under harsh criticism from some city employees and alderpersons.

"One of the only voices that stood up to inconsistencies at City Hall is now being silenced," Miljevich said. "I have done nothing wrong. I have given sound legal advice over the last five and a half years, and, quite frankly, I do not understand why this occurred."

Rog, the only female alderperson in Rhinelander, believes if Miljevich wasn't a woman, she'd still have a job after Tuesday night's meeting.

"This is a total attack on women. Women just have no place anymore in City Hall," Rog said. "[Frederickson] treats women and the people that work in City Hall terribly."

Rog said the mayor's attacks started with herself and now Miljevich.

"I think it's time that the residents of Rhinelander realize that their city is going in the wrong direction with this mayor, and I think it's time for him to resign," Rog said.

In a brief interview before abruptly walking away from reporters, Frederickson would not answer specific questions about why Miljevich was terminated.

"It was a look at a contract, and she's done a good job for the city up to this point. We're looking to move in a different direction," Frederickson said.

When pressed, Frederickson simply replied "it was time" three times.

In a brief phone conversation later Tuesday night, Newswatch 12 asked Frederickson to respond to Rog's claims of sexism.

"I've never had any problem with women," he said.

He called Rog's allegation "amazing" before hanging up.

After her termination, Miljevich said she'll investigate hiring a lawyer for herself. But prior to the council going into closed session to discuss her employment, she brought up legal concerns.

Frederickson retained attorney James Macy from the firm von Brisen and Roper to act as legal counsel during the closed session. Miljevich said that violated state law, citing statute 62.09(12)(g). That law states, "The council may employ and compensate special counsel to assist in or take charge of any matter in which the city is interested." Miljevich argued Frederickson alone, not the common council, had retained Macy, meaning he was unable to serve as counsel. The same voting bloc decided to enter closed session with Macy despite Miljevich's warning.

Miljevich's termination will be effective May 31.

The decision Tuesday came the same day as Newswatch 12 learned Macy, the von Briesen attorney, and former Kimberly Village Administrator Rick Hermus, spent a day last week interviewing some city employees about their declaration of "no confidence" against Guild, the city administrator. Frederickson ordered the investigation.

Note: A previous version of this story indicated Rog blamed sexism in City Hall for the resignation of former alderwoman Sherrie Belliveau.  On Thursday, Rog asked for that reference to be removed.

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