Biting the Hand That Fed Him | FREE WHITEWATER

Biting the Hand That Fed Him

Janesville City Manager Eric Levitt has decamped to Simi Valley, California. Readers will recall that Mr. Levitt touted the supposed benefits of a Generac-supporting ‘Innovation Express’ bus costing hundreds of thousands in public money. He kindly visited Whitewater last budget season to ask Whitewater taxpayers to kick in for a private company’s needs. (See, Whitewater’s Common Council Session of 11.20.12: 25 Questions about the Generac Bus.)

Overall, I’d say the press in Janesville handled Levitt gently, despite that city’s chronic sluggishness.

(Perhaps Mr. Levitt got out just in time: one reads that the Pulitzer-prize winning Washington Post reporter Amy Goldstein’s writing a book about ongoing economic frustration in Janesville. Note to Whitewater City Manager Clapper: (1) you won’t have Levitt to beg for more taxpayer money for the bus come this fall, but (2) you probably wouldn’t benefit from his help at this point, anyway.)

Yet, for all the supportive treatment Levitt received, he saw no need to reciprocate – he was willing to conceal from the press the circumstances of the departure of Janesville’s Economic Director:

JANESVILLE — Vic Grassman, Janesville’s former economic director who resigned March 15, was given the choice to resign or be fired, according to records recently received by The Gazette.

Former City Manager Eric Levitt said in March that Grassman resigned for personal reasons. Grassman is being paid through July 1.

The Gazette filed an open records request with the city asking for records pertaining to Grassman’s resignation. The records released by the city show the parties agreed Grassman would resign and be put on administrative leave, be paid through July 1 and be covered by the city’s insurance through July 31. The city also agreed not to fight Grassman receiving unemployment after that.

Grassman was hired in 2009. His salary was $96,913.

A letter Grassman gave to The Gazette, however, shows he was given the choice to resign or be fired….

Levitt, reached before he left for his new job in Simi Valley, Calif., said he did not release the termination letter to The Gazette because he viewed it as a draft, which is exempt under the Wisconsin Open Record Law.

An attorney for the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, however, said the letter could not be called a draft because it was distributed, in this case to Grassman. The attorney said it was his opinion the city should have released the letter to the newspaper.

Janesville City Manager Levitt received – and surely wanted – a positive description in the press. When the press wanted — and surely deserved under the law — an honest answer to a public records request, Eric Levitt didn’t reciprocate half so obligingly.

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