Mayville Accused Of Violating Open Meetings Law With Blue Zones Collaboration

(Mayville) The city of Mayville is accused of violating the open meetings law in its partnership with the Dodge County Blue Zones initiative. A complaint was filed in February with the Dodge County District Attorney’s office by a Mayville resident; it has since been turned over to the Waukesha County District Attorney’s Office to avoid any conflicts of interest. The complaint alleges that Blue Zones has acted as an “advisory board” making proposals and working to enact ordinances while the city has “failed to give proper notice of meetings conducted” on its behalf. That includes not properly posting meeting notifications, agendas or minutes from their discussions. Mayor Rob Boelk says the city’s attorney, along with an independent attorney, both agreed that there are grounds for the complaint. Boelk says the city has cooperated fully with Waukesha County investigators.

Dodge County Blue Zones Program Manager Leslie Covell Hershberger says when the non-profit was made aware of the complaint three months ago, they immediately began posting all meeting information -for every city they work with- on their website, Facebook page and in local newspapers. She says the individual who made the complaint felt their policy meetings -which focus on environmental health initiatives- should be made public and in not doing so is in violation of “Sunshine Laws.” Hershberger says this change is entirely new to Blue Zones because it is not a governmental entity and has not had to publicly post meetings anywhere else in the world. She says according to their attorneys, the only time their meetings need to be posted publicly is when a quorum of public officials is present. Hershberger says any ideas that are discussed come from community involvement and any large-scale changes must go through proper channels -such as recommendations to a city council via public meetings- and also be on the official agenda for a vote. Hershberger says that Blue Zones will continue to work with Mayville businesses and community organizations to implement healthy life choices.

The issue was initially brought to the Dodge County District Attorney’s Office and Managing Attorney Bob Barrington says his office recognized that there could be a conflict and asked Waukesha County to investigate. Barrington says their investigation was completed on Tuesday and the sheriff’s report was given to the Dodge County District Attorney’s Office. Dodge County, again citing concerns about a conflict of interest, in turn is asking the Waukesha County District Attorney to review the report from the sheriff and determine what action, if any, needs to be taken. The complaint notes that violation of the open meetings law was likely not intentional and only seeks to cease the conduct. Such a violation typically carries a fine of a couple hundred dollars and requirements to attend a training session on open meetings law. Blue Zones is an international well-being initiative that is currently focused on bringing healthy opportunities to Mayville, Horicon, Juneau and Beaver Dam.