Village’s insurer paying $1,000 in open records case settlement
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – The village’s insurance carrier is paying $1,000 to settle an open records case involving an individual who made a records request last March and wished to remain anonymous.
The 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 Aug. 3, 2018, when he was seen wearing a thong while teeing off at the Brown County Golf Course.
The anonymous individual used the pseudonym Mr. M, along with Richard Marven appearing in the name and prefix in the address of email messages he used requesting the billing records.
He accused the Village of Ashwaubenon 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.
After not being provided copies of the billing records from the village either by mail or email, his attorney, Carley Windorff, filed a complaint June 21 with the Brown County clerk of circuit court.
Under a copy of the settlement agreement obtained in an open records request by The Press Times, the parties mutually agreed to settle the case, which was dismissed and not able to be filed again.
The village provided Windorff’s trust account with a $1,000 check issued by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities Mutual Insurance.
Despite the payment being made by the village’s insurer, the settlement states the agreement is a “compromise settlement of a disputed claim,” and it “shall not be construed to be the admission of any liability, fault, or obligation whatsoever by any party or to any other person or entity.”
The agreement calls for treating the settlement as being confidential “to the extent allowed by law.”
In addition, the settlement states to whom the parties may disclose the agreement terms to and under what conditions.
Another clause of the settlement states neither the parties in the case nor their representatives “will make any statements, either internally or externally, to the press” regarding the agreement, the open records request or the case itself.
Windorff signed the agreement on behalf of her anonymous client, while Wachewicz signed it on behalf of himself and Village President Mary Kardoskee signed it on behalf of the village.
Prior to the agreement being finalized, the anonymous individual informed The Press Times the village provided him with the records he requested while his attorney was working with the village on the settlement.
Copies of those billing records were also provided to The Press Times upon inspecting them July 9 at the village hall.
The six pages of invoices from the Strang, Patteson, Renning, Lewis & Lacy law firm state they are for “personnel investigations” and total more than $11,000.
The bills indicate most of the work was done by Geoffrey Lacy, who the village had handle the investigation into the FOP golf outing.
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.”
Following the investigation, Zynda was directed in December 2018 in a letter issued by then Ashwaubenon Public Safety Chief Eric Dunning to review the village’s anti-harassment policy and dress code.
The Ashwaubenon Public Safety Officers’ Association filed a grievance regarding the letter being placed into Zynda’s personnel file and requested an arbitration hearing with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, which took place Jan. 22 at village hall.
The hearing was conducted by the WERC’s Raleigh Jones, who said he would issue a written ruling on the grievance after post-hearing briefs are due March 20 from attorneys representing the union and the village.