After public comments were completed President John Jeffords read both items under DISCUSSION/ACTION ITEMS:
Item 5 a. Discussion/Action regarding a direct legislation petition to institute term limits on the Village Board by Ms. Danah Zoulek
b. Discussion/Action regarding a direct legislation petition to expand the Village Board size by Ms. Danah Zoulek
Village Administrator Jim Healy then gave a brief over view of the petition process noting, "if passed it would be effective on posting and adding of 2 board members would occur in 2017."
Video of June 25th
Trustee Collins then said, "So the very last statement on there was asking for the board to resign and I think we are starting to see this motivation showing much more publically and more in context now that we know the paperwork that's been circulated by Mrs. Zoulek and Mr. Gonyo. So I wanted to go ahead and look at the July 25th one, just a little change. So July 25th is getting a lot closer to when the paperwork was circulated. So if you can, play that one."
Video of July 25th
After the video Trustee Collins said, "Ok, there is a lot of stuff in there. And first of all if there was vandalism to the Zoulke home, that's. ....."
Danah broke in and yelled, "If? ...... My name is on the agenda and I would like to say...."
President Jeffords broke in, " Public comment is over, no, no, it's the board's time to speak, Danah, Danah, ....."
Attorney Macy, "Wait, where is the Sheriff?"
Danah, " That's fine, arrest me. If that what you want, then do it. I want to say that....."
Atty. Macy, "No, you don't have the floor Officer come up and have her be quiet."
Danah said, "Ok, that's fine. It was vandalized! You know the law Mr. Macy!"
Atty Macy, " Officer."
Danah yelled, "You pounded your fist on the desk and specifically told me..." "No. This is not ok. This is personal, this is private, personal....."
The Sheriff quietly said, "Danah. Stand up and walk outside with me."
Danah yelled, " Obviously this is a personal attack. I want everybody in here to know this is a personal attack."
Danah pointed her finger to a person seated in back, "You, stop trespassing on my property!"
The person said, "Oh, that was personal,' as Danah walked outside.
The meeting continued.
Trustee Collins said, "One of the things that was referenced in there was some comments that were caught on a hot mic at the end of a closed session (May 2015 video) and the accusation is that those comments were at the petitioner or petitioners and if we can play that (video) and what I would like everybody to listen for is, does anybody hear who it is being directed at. This is very short."
Video of May 2015
Trustee Collins then said "That's all there is. Now Rock and I do play cards, I will admit that, and he is always calling me a jackass whenever I make a mistake playing cards. Those comments were not addressed at the petitioners. So let's put this all together. There is a lot of anger, there is a lot of frustration clearly over the process and how government works but government was designed specifically to go slowly because the founders of the United States of America never wanted decisions being made in an emotional state of people. So it was very specifically designed to put together that time is taken, and care is taken, discussion happens. Unfortunately some things take a very long time and when you're trying to build something or do something it seems like it takes forever. And yes, sometimes developers are losing money, however that's the cost of doing business. But the process is the process, you must honor the process. You must work with the process. If that's not working for you we have a legal system that you can resort to, feel free to use the legal system if you're not getting what you think is the right thing to get. We didn't make these decisions or these assumptions on our own. We consulted with the village attorney. We consulted with experts in the field of this law, with the field of ordinances. We also looked at the time frame of when things happened. The motivation I don't think is out of need. The motivation to this is out of greed. And I will give the floor back."
President Jeffords asked if there were further comments from the board members.
Trustee Sandy Voss said, "I would like to state one thing regarding term limits. I think there is a time and place for term limits. I don't think it is the village board. I think one thing that is forgotten is I have served 2 terms and am honored to be serving my third term right now. And I do think the election process does work for term limits. Another thing that was brought up earlier is that people have been on the board too long. I respect all the people that I work with. The knowledge and history that they have of Richfield, they have been wonderful mentors for me. I hope I can turn that around and be the same for someone else one day too. I am honored to work with everyone here."
Trustee Rock Brandner stated, "I will make a motion to reject the proposed Direct Legislation to forbid the Village of Richfield Trustees and President to serve for more than 6 years.
President Jeffords, "I do have a motion on the floor, do I have a second."
Trustee Neu said, "I'll second that."
President Jeffords, " Second. Now there will be further comment but not all of us had a chance to comment. But that is OK. We have a motion on the floor. I'd like to make some comments yet, I do not know if Dan does. Do you want to go before me or after? What is your choice?"
Trustee Neu, "I'll go. I was on the village board when we created the charter. We went to great lengths, and we talked going to a 7 man board and other things. We went through a lot of decision making when we invented, not invented but created the charter. It was the boards feeling back then as a whole they wanted to keep it a small town like feeling, a country way of life, even though we are a village. So for me to vote, I'd rather keep it that same way, as that is the way I voted originally, so that is the way I feel today. I feel it is important to have our small village. That is all I have to say."
President Jeffords, "I have been thinking about this and I have been trying to organize my thoughts and to explain a couple of things. I owe the public my thoughts my opinion on what motivated the petitioners Danah Zoulek, Jeff Gonyo to do what they did. And also discuss the merits of each of the petitions. First to the motivation. Now Bill has gone through and used the video and expressed himself as how he felt the petition came about and other board members gave their opinions as well. But I think in the case of Danah we see some events that created a great deal of frustration in her life about operating the pit, opening the pit or fill site as we call it. We saw that frustration and not wanting to work with the village, or through the village process and that frustration eventually led to court. We won that case, there is a pending potential litigation on appeal but the tax payers chipped in around $80,000, am I right? And we are fortunate to have very experienced and great litigators, John Macy was part of the team. We saw also along the way that Danah was going to try to work from within, and ran for trustee, she was not successful in becoming a trustee in the spring and also we now see her wanting to eliminate, through term limits, the entire board over a period of time. She is doing that for personal reasons and we will get into that in a second. The other circulator was Jeff Gonyo and I am trying to think what is motivating Jeff Gonyo to circulate with Danah Zoulek. After all Jeff Gonyo does not live in the village, work in the village, own property in the village, does not pay real estate taxes in the village, doesn't vote here. Jeff as we have heard before, he lives in the Town of Polk. But Jeff wants to increase our board size even though the town he lives in has a board size of 3. He want to more than double our board size to 7, I find that interesting. Double the size, that rather a hypocritical position to take. He doesn't hesitate to force Richfield taxpayers to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on his open record requests over the years. However he has not, and along with that he didn't hesitate to sue Richfield more than once. He has not been successful in court although we again had to spend thousands of dollars in attorney fees, court costs etc. But because he was not successful in court the court ordered him to pay the village thousands of dollars in fees, etc. He has never paid that. Jeff it is time you settle up with the village and pay what is due the village, You have lost in court. Jeff wants a different board and he wants to accomplish that, I believe, my opinion, through term limits to provide a path again to spend thousands of dollars on fighting DOT (Department of Transportation) or their future vision of Hwy 164. He has been very clear about that goal. With an entirely new board that certainly would help him, I believe.
So my fellow Richfield residents, don't be duped into thinking these petitions are good for Richfield. I feel it is a con job that benefits only Danah Zoulk and Jeff Gonyo. Now let's think about, or I have thought about, the merits of the petition itself. I've talked about the motivation but a whole different category. But aside from that should we entertain the thought, should you entertain the thought of making these changes? You all know that we became a village in 2008 and for me, my vote mainly centered on the prevention of annexation, that was my primary goal. There are some members in the community that wanted a border agreement but unfortunately border agreements are very temporary and they eventually lead to another community taking your community. It's how I felt, so I thought the best vote for me was to prevent annexation, to keep Richfield Richfield forever at 36 square miles. Not negotiate with another entity and end up with something less than 36. In the course of creating the village charter one of the things that village trustees debated was whether or not to increase from the Town board size of 5 to 7, which is the typical village. At the time there were 11,300, or whatever, citizens in the village and all of us on the board felt it was important to keep Richfield as a town, at least the flavor of a town. Our name was going to change certainly, but the way we governed ourselves we still like the flavor of being a township. So over the last 7 years we are still in that 11, 400-500-600 population range, nothing really has changed in population to make me think we should add additional positions. Now if we were a village of 20,000, our build out projections is about 20,000-25,000 people. Perhaps at that time the citizens would say, maybe we need a little more representation, maybe we want to do what Germantown did and have districts, etc. But that another time and it's way off in the future, I feel. I don't think now is the time to add 2 positions. One of the things I heard tonight was that career politicians, that we have a bunch of career politicians on the board. And when I hear that term maybe some of that applies to Washington where you have full time people working in Washington, full time salaries, full time benefits, full time need to campaign and fundraise. We all know it takes tremendous, millions of dollars to retain your spot in Washington. And then when they leave they become lobbyists and a lot of us are really turned off by that, and I think that negative connotation of career politician is pasted in that area. But here in Richfield, or in any small community it is non partisan politics. The foundation of those communities is based on volunteerism and many of you in the audience volunteer now in many organizations, like the Lions, Richfield Historical Society, baseball, soccer leagues, Richfield Fire Company. Our boards and commissions, we have 5 elected village trustees, but understand there is a need, on these boards and commissions of roughly 3 dozen people, it's actually closer to 40. But many of those positions are headed up by board members. So there are 36 positions that need to get appointed and we have a great difficulty, as a board, finding folks to volunteer. And Danah Zoulek and Jeff Gonyo think everybody will come rushing out of the woodwork to volunteer. People are busy. All of us board members realize that, you all realize that. We are a young community, parents are working, both spouses are working, trying to raise their kids, go to church, go to baseball and soccer. You have a full schedule. And I really commend Sandy for trying to carve out a piece of that time to be on the board. She is a very busy Mom. But it's hard to do that. And so, yes, this board receives some money, sure we do. It equates to maybe $ 0.50 per hour. But it's not about the money. It never has been for me. And it's never been that way for the board members. Our commissions and boards get, I think, $35.00 per hour, (Jim clarified it is $30.00), oh, gave them a raise, cannot do that. (Chuckle). But again it's not about the money it's about each of the board members having maybe a special background that they feel they can bring to the board to help make decisions. Mine background is finance so I think I can help in that area. That's why we do it, we want to give something back. Just like your volunteer fire company is giving something back, and they are risking their lives, we are not. But they are out there fighting fire, out there providing ambulance service, etc. No I don't really believe it's time to increase by 2 positions. And the same thing is true for term limits. Many of you board members said this, term limits, well there are two years. And it takes time to learn any job especially this job. I would change my mind if we saw at every election we needed a primary to whittle down the number of people who would be eligible to run for office. That would be a great signal for perhaps term limits to come in or to add 2 more people, but that is just not the case. I wish it were, but that is not reality in Richfield today. Maybe tomorrow. And so we do the best we do, the best we can do, with what we have and I think it has worked out well. It's just like our budget, I wish we had a lot more money to pave all our roads in Richfield. But we do not have that kind of money right now, so we stretch the nickel, dime, quarter and get by. So I will be voting no on both of those petitions tonight and if the rest of the board does, what that will do is make the citizens decide whether those changes should take place. And I hope that you think about our discussion tonight and think about the motivation of the two individuals that started this petition and why they really, from my opinion that is, I believe they are motivated to institute these changes to our charter."
Trustee Brandner, " I would like to say a few words. I cannot understand why anyone would want to change the structure of our government when it is working so well for our citizens. Out of the 20 municipalities of similar size in the State of Wisconsin we have the lowest local taxes in the last 3 years. We also have a substantial amount of money on hand. If we want to go out and buy a snow plow truck which costs $170,000 we can pay for it in cash. A lot of our neighboring communities finance it for a total of 7 years. They are financing their squad cars. We don't have that problem either. Also the fact that we have money on hand, let's say something bad happens to us, like a tornado or a flood, we have funds immediately to go out and to assist our taxpayers and help them with what they need. Why try to change something when it is not broke and all it will do is cost our taxpayers more money."
Trustee Collins, "Someone mentioned that this is a thankless job. To the contrary, this is so fulfilling to me because I have had the opportunity to work with some wonderful great people, as John said, volunteering their time, giving of themselves for the village and the diversity of thought and opinion that I have received from talking with you has enriched me and continues to enrich me. I want to thank you for that. I do not think we need a larger board nor do we need term limits because we are always learning. There will come a time, as John mentioned, perhaps, when we have 25,000 people when the village is built out, but now is not the time."
President Jeffords, "Again it is not that this board isn't willing to listen to constructive criticism and make change, I've done that in many instances. One of the more difficult things that I find is always trying to be cognizant of the individual right without losing sight of the greater good for the community and the example of that was the fill sight. Granted you have property rights etc. that might enter into the decision-making there, but in the end it was the 200,000 or 300,000 trucks that would be driving down Willow Creek Road or anywhere around the village, as well as, the potential for the water contamination. And those are the kind of decisions this board is not afraid to make but there are things that happen as a result of that and I think part of the circulation of the petition is tied into that, in fact, my opinion is that it is definitely tied into that. Are we done making comments. Rock please re read the motion."
Attorney Macy wanted to make sure before they voted that they knew the effect of their decision. They only could make a decision to adopt the petition or send it to a referendum, by law.
Trustee Brandner re-read the motion regarding term limits. Trustee Neu seconded. Motion passed.
Trustee Collins made the motion regarding increasing board to 7 members. Seconded by Trustee Voss. Motion passed.
April 2016 residents in Richfield will decide if they want these 2 petitions implemented. Be careful of what you vote for.