By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – A hearing scheduled earlier this month in Brown County Circuit Court in an open records case involving an individual who wishes to remain anonymous and the Village of Ashwaubenon did not take place after the parties involved notified the court to have it taken off the calendar because of an agreement being reached, a judicial assistant with the court confirmed.
The anonymous individual, identified in court records as an adult citizen of Wisconsin with the alias John Doe, requested electronic copies of billing records involving an outside law firm being hired by the village to conduct personnel investigations.
Those investigations included Ashwaubenon public safety officer Jamie Zynda’s off-duty participation in a Fraternal Order of Police golf outing in August 2018 when Zynda had been reported seen wearing a thong while golfing.
The anonymous individual accused the village and Village Attorney Tony Wachewicz of unlawfully denying his request for copies of the billing records and unlawfully requesting him to appear in person to inspect the records he requested.
After not being provided copies of the billing records from the village either by mail or email, which the individual regarded as “an arbitrary delay and constructive denial” of his open records request, his attorney, Carley Windorff, filed a complaint June 21 with the county clerk of circuit court.
The complaint sought to have Judge John Zakowski find the village and Wachewicz violated the open records law, along with an order directing them to produce copies of the billing records requested and an award to the individual for his attorney’s fees, damages of not less than $100 and other actual costs.
The village and an attorney representing the village, Ashley Lehocky of Town Counsel Law and Litigation, filed motions seeking to dismiss the case prior to reaching an agreement and before the hearing was scheduled.
In a legal brief filed Sept. 18 in support of a motion to dismiss, Lehocky stated an “unidentified plaintiff does not have standing to bring an action for damages suffered by a fake person.”
When contacted for comment after the hearing was taken off the court calendar, Wachewicz said he is not at liberty to discuss any pending agreement that has not been finalized at this time.
Lehocky said her office has a policy against commenting on any client matter, including an agreement for pending litigation.
The anonymous individual, who used the pseudonym Mr. M along with Richard Marven appearing in the name and prefix in the address of email messages requesting the billing records, said the village has provided him with the records and offered to settle the case.
He also informed The Press Times his attorney is working with the village on the terms of this settlement.
Copies of the billing records were previously provided to The Press Times upon inspecting them July 9 at the village hall.
The six pages of invoices from Strang, Patteson, Renning, Lewis & Lacy law firm state they are for “personnel investigations” and total more than $11,000, with the billing rate before Oct. 1, 2018, being $255 an hour and after being $260 an hour.
The bills indicate most of the work was done by Geoffrey Lacy, who the village had handle the investigation into last year’s Fraternal Order of Police golf outing, which Zynda and other Ashwaubenon officers participated in at the Brown County Golf Course while off-duty.
During the outing, according a report of the investigation prepared by Lacy, Zynda “wore very short jean shorts and rolled his shirt into a halter top design” and “chose to remove his jean shorts to reveal that he was wearing a thong.”
Lacy concluded Zynda’s behavior “was unusual, but not per se unlawful or prohibited by policy.”
Following the investigation, Zynda was directed last December in a letter from then Ashwaubenon Public Safety Chief Eric Dunning to review the village’s anti-harassment policy and dress code.
The village’s Public Safety Officers Association has filed a grievance regarding the letter and has requested an arbitration hearing before the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission.
The union’s attorney, Aaron Halstead, said there was no reported instance of harassment or discrimination by Zynda, who had engaged in “purely personal conduct outside the workplace, not sponsored by the village.”
An arbitration hearing regarding the grievance has been scheduled for Dec. 13 at the village hall before the WERC’s Raleigh Jones, who indicated he would be issuing a written ruling following the hearing.