By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – After discussion, city alders decided not to impose an informal censure on District 6 Alder Kathy Lefebvre at the council meeting Tuesday, Jan. 14, but instead presented her with a letter of reproval, which was drafted by District 1 Alder Barbara Dorff.
“A very, very important part of this code of conduct is in resolving the complaint,” Dorff said. “The totality of the circumstances shall be taken into consideration, including the intent of the person accused of the wrongdoing.”
The complaint against Lefebvre stems from the May 14 Parks Committee meeting, during which she admitted sharing a closed session vote tally with members of the public.
A complaint was filled by District 3 Alder Andy Nicholson in August.
The Ethics Board determined at its Dec. 16 meeting Lefebvre violated the city’s code of conduct and code of ethics, and it recommended an informal censure.
“I’m a member of that committee, and this was not easy for the committee to come to a decision, but the end result was that we are all held to a standard as elected officials and that standard needs to be maintained,” said District 4 Alder Bill Galvin. “She apologized. She was sorry about it and no one thinks otherwise. But at the same time, we have a standard. So, because of everything that was involved, that’s why the committee voted for an informal censure.”
After nearly an hour of discussion, the full council decided that wasn’t the case.
Dorff defended Lefebvre actions, calling it an honest mistake.
She urged the council to approve a lesser punishment, noting Lefebvre was personally impacted by the issue being discussed.
“I have nothing but respect for our Ethics Board, but I think it was a mistake that this hearing was held,” Dorff said. “I say it’s OK be human. I say it’s OK to go into a meeting in which you are really personally involved and make a mistake. I say that is not a violation of this city’s Code of Conduct. It’s just a mistake.”
The letter of reproval outlines Lefebvre’s wrongdoing and encourages her to refrain from similar conduct going forward.
“Alder Lefebvre has apologized repeatedly,” Dorff said. “I don’t think she needs to apologize again.”
The decision, however, didn’t come without some controversy.
Nicholson was adamant the council go into closed session to discuss new information, or evidence he personally witnessed following the Ethics Board hearing that the full council needed to hear.
“I mean if this council wants to move forward and doesn’t want to hear any vital information witnessed after the hearing, so be it,” he said. “Put your head in the sand. But I tell you, there is information out there that is vital to this scenario.”
The council did go into closed session for about 15 minutes.
No additional information was presented or discussed when reconvening into open session.
Instead, council members voted unanimously to give Lefebvre the letter of reproval, which was signed by all council members during the closed session – minus District 8 Alder Chris Wery who abstained from the vote for personal reasons.
Lefebvre is Wery’s mother-in-law.
Lefebvre said she was happy with the outcome.
“I’m just appreciative that they took everything into account,” she said. “I do take this all very seriously.”