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County board appointment process, transparency questioned

JANESVILLE

A Wisconsin government watchdog claims the Rock County Board of Supervisors’ administration might be violating the state open meetings law regarding pending appointments of new supervisors. The administration contends the actions are lawful.

In late May, District 11 Supervisor Kaelyb Lokrantz resigned after moving from the city and town of Beloit district. In mid-June, District 23 Supervisor Doug Wilde resigned, citing conflicts with his career while serving. The resignations prompted the county to begin a search for replacement candidates.

County Board Chairman Richard Bostwick has the authority to make appointments and fill vacant supervisor seats, with Rock County Corporation Counsel Richard Greenlee contending that how Bostwick chooses to make appointments is not subject to the Wisconsin open meetings law, even after the chairman opted to involve other members of the county board to participate in the selection process and interviews of potential board appointees.

Tom Kamenick, president and founder of the Wisconsin Transparency Project, said the board’s leadership is attempting to delegate responsibilities to a committee that does not hold open public meetings.

“Governmental bodies cannot create other bodies to help them perform their work without those secondary bodies also being open to the public. Operating this way is putting the county at serious risk of substantial legal liability,” Kamenick said.

In response, Greenlee said the county is committed to transparency but claimed that the selection process was not subject to open meetings law requirements because under state law, self-organized county boards “may determine the procedure for filling a vacancy.”

County board policy states that “vacancies during the term of any supervisor shall be filled by the County Board Chair with confirmation by the county board.”

“There are no other provisions of the constitution, statute, ordinance or board rules which deal with appointments for vacancies, and there is no provision that delegates any authority to a group of supervisors to exercise that appointment authority,” Greenlee said.

Greenlee added that Bostwick does not have authority to order any supervisor to assist in the selection process and that those chosen by Bostwick to assist in the replacement effort cannot have power to compel Bostwick to agree with any potential determination or candidate selection.

“Supervisors who have been offered the chance to participate in candidate interviews may provide feedback to the chair in whatever manner the chair deems valuable. Nevertheless, the decision on who to appoint is solely vested in the board chair,” Greenlee said.

Two people have applied for the District 11 vacancy—Janelle Crary and Matt Finnegan. Crary was appointed by the board at last week’s regular board meeting, according to Rock County Administrator Josh Smith.

For the District 23 vacancy, Rock County residents John Burt, Tricia Clasen, Patric Garvin, Craig Gramke, Michael Sheridan and Mary Jo Villa have applied. The person appointed to represent District 23 will serve the unexpired term until the April 2022 election.

County board rules stipulate that vacancies must be filled within 60 working days of the day a resignation occurs.

“That is as much information as I have for you on the timeline at this point,” Smith said.

Smith said there’s no set date at which the next appointment could be made but noted that the next two upcoming board meetings will be held Aug. 12 and Sept. 9. As in the past, the second county board meeting of the month for July and August are not typically held, Smith added.


Jeff Hess plays catch with his 6-month-old puppy named Daisy while spending time at Storrs Lake in Milton late Wednesday morning.


Josiah Rogers, 12, reels in a small fish while spending time at Storrs Lake in Milton late Wednesday morning.


Coronavirus
More than a quarter of 12 to 18-year-olds vaccinated in the county

Local health officials are encouraging more young people to get the COVID-19 vaccine before the start of the new school year as variants of the virus continue to circulate.

“It’s important to get vaccinated to protect yourself from the variants that are circulating as well as the original strain of COVID-19. All three of the vaccines offer protection against the variants,” Rock County Publicc Health Department communications specialist Jessica Turner said. “By getting more people vaccinated, it decreases the chance of more variants surfacing.”

More young people in Rock County and across the state are getting vaccinated.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 48.1% of the total population in the state has completed a vaccine series. That includes 25% of 12- to 15-year-olds and 34.5% of 16- to 17-year-olds.

The total number of 12- to 18-year-olds vaccinated in Rock County is 4,715.

About 29% of the county’s 12- to 15-year-olds have gotten the first dose, and 25% of that age group is fully vaccinated. About 38% of 16- to 17-year-olds have gotten at least one dose, and 33% have completed the series, according to data from the health department.

“We’d like to see them a little bit higher with the school year coming up, and we are doing everything we can to increase those numbers,” Turner said.

The health department has offered vaccination clinics at schools in Beloit, Janesville, Clinton, Evansville, Milton, Edgerton and Orfordville.

Turner said the Pfizer vaccine is offered for 12- to 17-year-olds and adults. When in stock, they offer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is a one-dose vaccination available for those 18 and older.

People wanting to be vaccinated are encouraged to visit rockcountyshot.com or schedule a shot at a local pharmacy or health care facility.

“The more we can vaccinate, the better. We are continuing our efforts to get those children vaccinated as well as the parents,” Turner said.

Turner said the health department will continue to monitor data and vaccination rates to determine how best to respond.

“Along with offering vaccine clinics, we are doing outreach to the community to try and provide information and combat misinformation. The risk of adverse reactions to the vaccine are still significantly less than getting COVID. You are more likely to have serious health effects from getting COVID than from the vaccine,” Turner said.

Turner said the more people who are vaccinated, the less chance there is for more variants.

“There is always the chance a variant could become more dangerous. Those mutations happen when there is more spread. The more people we can get vaccinated, the less likely we are to be seeing those variants,” she said.

Presence of the delta variant of the coronavirus has not yet been confirmed in the county, although it could be here. The alpha, beta and gamma variants have been identified in Rock County.


Obituaries and death notices for July 15, 2021

James Lee Carlson

Hugh Gene Dahl

Jerry L. Flood

Claire Fredricks

Leroy L. “Roy” Machnik

William R. “Bill” O’Neal

Joseph G. Roberts

Roxanne M. Taylor-Hundt


Local
Procession for long-lost Evansville airman on Friday, burial Saturday

After his military transport plane crashed into an Alaskan mountainside nearly 70 years ago, Edward J. Miller is finally coming home.

On Friday, July 16, Miller will be transported to the Ward-Hurtley Funeral Home en route to Maple Hill Cemetery in Evansville, where he will be laid to rest.

Starting at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, a military convoy—to be joined by the Rock County Sheriff’s Office and Evansville Police Department—will escort Miller and members of his family along a route leading to the funeral home.

According to a news release from the Evansville Police Department, the convoy will depart the Piggly Wiggly on the east side of Evansville at 6:30 p.m. and continue west on Main Street, then south on Fifth Street before reaching the funeral home.

The release encourages members of the public to show their respects by lining Main Street during the procession. There will be no parking on East Main Street or on the north side of West Main Street from First Street to Fourth Street.

On Saturday, July 17, Miller will be buried with full military honors graveside at Maple Hill Cemetery. The service is slated to begin around 1 p.m. and is open to the public.

Full military honors include a seven to 20-member Honor Guard team who provide pallbearing support, flag folding, a color guard team and a three to seven-person firing party. Taps will also be played by members of the team.

Miller, an Evansville man and former U.S. Air Force Airman 2nd Class of the 1701st Aerial Port Squadron, died Nov. 22, 1952, after a transport plane he was on crashed into a glacier on a mountain 45 miles east of Anchorage, Alaska.

The wrecked plane and everyone aboard were buried under ice and snow after several days of blizzard conditions.

It wasn’t until a series of search-and-recovery missions during the summers between 2012 and 2019 that the remains of Miller and all but a few of the other 51 servicemen were discovered and identities confirmed. The story of the recovery of the men’s remains was featured in The Gazette last month.

According to his obituary, Miller was being relocated to Alaska on the day of the crash and was one of 52 passengers aboard an Air Force C-124 Globemaster. It would be another year before the wreckage was discovered, but severe weather and terrain conditions hindered recovery attempts for decades.

Miller is survived by sisters Dorothy Miller Wheaton and Nancy Miller Cox, who both reside in Florida.


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