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Update: Judge Dismisses Case Against Rhinelander Mayor, Four Council Members

Star Journal

Oneida County Judge Michael Bloom has dismissed a case against Rhinelander Mayor Chris Frederickson and four members of the city council.

The decision came on Wednesday, according to online court records.

The Lakeland Times and Northwoods River News filed a civil complaint against the elected officials.

The newspapers said the five took part in an illegal walking quorum and violated the state’s open meetings law while drafting a letter last year.  In the letter, the elected officials tried to convince Alderperson George Kirby to step down as city council president.

Oneida County District Attorney Michael Schiek had previously declined to prosecute the five for an open meetings violation.

In Bloom's decision, he questioned the newspaper's assessment that the forming of a letter constituted a government body in the process of taking action. He said the newspaper did not provide enough facts to prove that the group formed what was alleged to be a 'walking quorum', though the facts presented found they had discussed among themselves at a gathering that a letter should be sent to Kirby.

Judge Bloom's decision centered on whether the letter written to Kirby was a formal action taken by the council, as the matter never appeared on a formal council agenda and therefore no formal government vote was taken.

Bloom said in his reading of the law, the action must lead to a formal action by the council to constitute and illegal gathering of a a public body.

Lakeland Times-Northwoods River News Publisher Gregg Walker said he was "disappointed" in Bloom's decision and is "considering our options".

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
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