Lawsuit against Monroe County supervisors heading to trial
A lawsuit against 10 Monroe County supervisors accused of violating Open Meetings Law will be going to trial.
La Crosse Judge Scott Horne, who is hearing the case in Monroe County Circuit Court, denied motions for summary judgment made by the plaintiff's and defendant's attorneys.
A summary judgment is a procedural device used during civil litigation to expeditiously dispose of a case without a trial. It is used when there is no dispute as to the material facts of the case.
Horne set a March 21 scheduling conference to determine the date of the trial after questioning if it would be possible to seat an impartial jury made up of Monroe County residents. That is expected to be discussed at the March 1 conference.
The plaintiffs contend the Jan. 24 Monroe County Board meeting, where 10 supervisors voted to designate Tomah as the building site for the new county nursing home was a pre-orchestrated proceeding.
The 10 Monroe County Board supervisors listed as defendants, include Pete Peterson, Nodji VanWychen, Paul Steele, Doug Path, Rod Sherwood, David Pierce, Carol Las, Dean Peterson, Mary Cook and James Schroeder.
The plaintiffs allege the 10 supervisors engaged in a walking quorum on Nov. 21, 2017, in violation of Wisconsin open meetings law, when they signed a petition under county board Rule 5.
A walking quorum exists when a quorum of a governing body (10 supervisors in the case of the Monroe County Board) conducts business without publishing proper public notification of a meeting.
The Rule 5 petition introduced a resolution at the Jan. 24 county board meeting, calling for the Tomah site to be explored. However, the resolution was amended at the meeting by Sup. Steele so that it read the facility would be placed in Tomah. That amended resolution passed on a 10-5 vote with all 10 defendants voting yes. Sup. Dan Olson was absent from the meeting and is no longer on the 16-member board.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to void the resolution moving the site to Tomah as well as the resolution for bonding. In addition, they are asking the court to fine the defendants between $25 and $300 each for violating open meetings law.
The plaintiffs are listed as James Rasmussen, Bruce Humphrey, Frances Hoeft, Barbara Rice, Robert Treu, Babette Rice, Pat Wall, Connie Rasmussen, Don Mulry, Dr. Richard Edwards, Kathryn Baird and HelenMarie Stiehl.
Look for a more detailed story in the Monday, March 4 Herald.