COUNCIL DISREGARDS PUBLIC TRUST, AGAIN
Item 10 on the June 18, Sturgeon Bay common council agenda, extension of DCMM PUD status was approached by alderwoman Avenson as it should have been, with her full regard for the Public Trust Doctrine, her oath of office and for avoiding future legal entanglement involving the city.
Ignoring normal rules of order, and in disregarding his own responsibility which demands the chair’s default neutrality on issues before the council, what amounted to the chairperson’s repeated demeaning and disrespectful badgering of the councilwoman, demanding a motion worded to satisfy his preferred terms, mayor Ward interrupted alderwoman Avenson prior to a seeking a second to her clearly stated initial motion.
Interestingly, during discussion, the city attorney didn’t fully clarify the issues at hand and minimally answered only the questions posed to him, going fully silent instead of answering alderwoman Bacon’s final question. Please note, the WRA is a legal entity created by the city under state statutes, and it was recently subject to an order from the common council to cease independent WRA action going forward. This should have been minimally required appropriate legal counsel pertinent to Item 10.
Clearly, the WRA and a former city attorney (and city council?) overlooked the Public Trust Doctrine in issuing the original quit claim deed to the DCMM parcel. That original issuance occurred without the legal authority to do so. There exists a reasonable question as to the legality of the council, two years ago, issuing a PUD prior to anyone obtaining an appropriate submerged land lease through the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BoCPL), historically. Tell me the DCMM is not sitting on pilings sunk to submerged bedrock.
Rightly, this PUD issue should have gone back to city planning for review as a minimum first step, inviting the WI DNR and BoCPL to adequately inform city council of “proper procedure.” This would have been the default process under Avenson’s initially stated motion which Ward improperly interrupted, ignoring the rules of order, and repeatedly badgered Avenson to meet his preferred terms for wording of a motion. Avenson deserves an immediate public apology from the mayor.
This PUD issue needs to be re-examined as Avenson’s concern is wholly legitimate. I won’t hold my breath though, either waiting for the mayor to acknowledge his improper conduct of the meeting, his inexcusable behavior toward the alderwoman, or to his issuing any apology. I won’t bet on the DCMM seeking an OHWM or a lakebed lease, abiding by the Public Trust Doctrine of the state constitution, either. DCMM donors beware. You may want to withdraw your DCMM pledge until the matter is settled. City disregard does not supersede the state constitution.