Lack of quorum cancels Human Services meeting
By Heather Graves
BROWN COUNTY – The special County Board meeting late last month started off with a little controversy because another meeting scheduled for the same time was canceled due to a lack of quorum.
“I would like to make an announcement that tonight on the doors of the Brown County Central Library is a notice that says tonight’s Human Services Committee meeting, scheduled for 5:30, the same time that this meeting started, is canceled due to a lack of quorum,” District 14 Supervisor and Human Services Committee Chair Joan Brusky said. “And I think there needs to be an explanation of how this came about.”
Brusky said she received a request from the County Board secretary the morning of Sept. 15 requesting the Sept. 22 Human Services meeting agenda that day, because of a vacation in the office.
“I was happy to oblige,” she said. “So, I approved the agenda, and it was on my desk and all supervisors’ desks (the night of Sept. 15).”
After rejecting six redistricting maps at the Sept. 15 County Board meeting, supervisors requested the drafting of more, and approved a tentative public hearing Sept. 23, for public comment.
“We discussed a subsequent redistricting meeting, and tonight (Sept. 22) was not mentioned at all,” Brusky said. “It was on or about Sept. 23, that we approved the motion.”
Brown County Clerk Patrick Moynihan said his office was informed the morning after the Sept. 15 meeting, that the special meeting would be held Sept. 22.
Brown County Code 2.13 (4) (a) reads, “The County Board agenda will be prepared by the County Board staff under the direction of the Board Chair.”
“Yes, the board chair sets the agendas, and the board office, under the County Clerk table of organization, puts it together and distributes it,” Brown County Deputy Executive Jeff Flynt said.
As County Board chair, District 11 Supervisor Pat Buckley is in charge of setting agendas.
Brusky said she received a text message Sept. 16 from Buckley inquiring about the Human Services Committee.
She said the text message said, “it would make more sense to have Human Services after the redistricting meeting, strictly my opinion.”
Brusky said at that point she had no information regarding a redistricting meeting for Sept. 22, or the need to move the Human Services Committee meeting.
“And then I also thought, well, I don’t know, it doesn’t seem like I have a lot of power, and I’ve certainly seen the power exhibited this past year,” she said. “If there is the power to move my Human Services meeting to a later time, then maybe we would meet tonight at 9 p.m. or 11 p.m. We could have the department chairs be waiting until we get done with this meeting tonight. Then when we are done, we can have the Human Services Committee meeting, because the County Board chair, or whoever else with him, wants to have 5:30 on the night always designated for Human Services Committee.”
Brusky said Moynihan told her the double-booking raised concerns in his office, but he said “Corporation Counsel (David Hemery) had weighed in that ‘One meeting couldn’t squash or cancel out the other one.’ So, I thought, ‘That’s our answer. We’re stuck with two meetings at 5:30.’”
Five supervisors sit on the Human Services Committee including Brusky, Megan Borchardt, Pat Evans, Emily Jacobson and Tom Sieber.
“And two supervisors that have communications at the Human Services meeting, so, we have seven supervisors that are tied up with the Human Services Committee at that exact same time as a special (County Board) meeting,” Brusky said. “And we are all going to have to make a choice, and I really regretted that they were going to be forced to do that.”
When only two committee members confirmed their attendance at the committee meeting, it was canceled due to a lack of quorum.
Brusky said her frustration grew when a last-minute change to the Sept. 22 special board meeting agenda included a possible vote on a redistricting map.
“I found out (Sept. 22), that something was added to the agenda, that we might indeed be voting tonight,” Brusky said. “And if we had not had to cancel the committee meeting due to a lack of quorum, we would have been stuck there and I would not be able to represent my district. So, not only was I pushed out of a meeting and all my committee members and the two supervisors who had communications on the agenda, I might be denied representing my district and everyone else that attended that meeting.”
Moynihan confirmed revisions were made to the agenda the morning of Sept. 21.
Hemery said the change to the agenda was “properly noticed at least 24 hours prior,” and the driving force for the change, as he understood it, was to give municipalities an additional week to draw their ward boundaries.
“The concern was that if the County Board waits until Sept. 29 to vote on a map, then the municipalities would only have 19 days to meet the Oct. 18 deadline,” Hemery said.
The board approved a new map that night with a 14-8.
A quorum, defined by Wisconsin State statutes as a majority of the board, is needed for a vote to take place.
For the 26-supervisor County Board, that would be 14.
If the five members of the Human Services Committee and the two supervisors with communications on the agenda had attended the committee meeting, coupled with the four supervisors absent for the Sept. 22 special County Board meeting for other reasons, the quorum would have been met with 15 supervisors present.
All but one of the Human Services Committee members voted “no” on the selected map.
Brusky said the lack of communication and consideration is unacceptable.
“I was busily contacting department heads and anybody I could think of that this would affect, calling them at home even,” she said. “People have other plans for tonight if they were not going to be at the Human Services Committee meeting. Let alone the people, citizenry, that were going to attend, and I understand there were going to be quite a few coming for one of the communications.”
She said she couldn’t put in communication regarding the issue at the Sept. 22 meeting, because it wasn’t on the agenda, “but I will the next time, and you will know why.”
Brusky said the Sept. 22 Human Services agenda items will be taken up at the Oct. 13 meeting, which will also include the committee’s budget discussions.
Buckley was contacted for comment on this story but did not return any messages.