On Whitewater’s Quarterly Police and Fire Commission Meeting

There’s a quarterly meeting of Whitewater’s Police and Fire Commission scheduled for tonight. The agenda is available online.

One sees that on May 5th, this was the distribution of the agenda:

May 5, 2010 Emailed/mailed to PFC members
Faxed to the Whitewater Register for posting
Faxed to the Library for posting
Emailed to Channel 13 for posting
Emailed to City Clerk’s Office for posting on City Hall bulletin board
Posted on City of Whitewater Website (

It’s too funny to describe something as “[f]axed to the Whitewater Register for posting.” Perhaps they stuck the notice on the bulletin board of the office that’s not in Whitewater anymore.

More important, of course, is who writes (and thus sets) the agenda. One can see from the .pdf document that the agenda was prepared in city hall; was it written there, too, by a bureaucrat rather than by a PFC member?

I don’t know. I do know that a PFC that acted as Wisconsin statutes require would be more than a lapdog or rubber stamp of a police chief, and would have members who would craft their own agenda items, and make it clear that they had. Nothing in this agenda makes that clear.

The meeting’s in that same, cramped space that’s comfortable only for insiders, and is uninviting for guests. It’s called the City Manager’s Conference Room, but it might just as well be the Insider Sekret Club Hous. A meeting like this, held quarterly, should be held each and every time in a large, spacious room, on the first floor of the building in which the meeting is held. If the Planning Commission and Common Council can meet in a room like that, so can the PFC.

Who’s responsibility is all this? If one reads the city’s website, this morning, one sees a proud declaration of all of City Manager, Kenin Brunner’s many responsibilities, including over the PFC.

Here’s a screen shot:

City Manager Department

The City Manager plans and directs the administration of the City to ensure that efficient municipal services are provided and are in line with Common Council objectives.

Administration department functions include: Liaison to the Common Council advising them on all significant matters and presenting all items which require Council action or approval. Directs, develops and implements appropriate budgeting, including capital improvements and administrative planning and control procedures.

Provides communications and public relations to the news media and people in the community through various communications media. Coordinates with other governmental agencies and represents the interests of the City in metropolitan, state, county, school district, and national activities as delegated by the City Council.

Responsible for effective recommendations in areas of policies, planning, administering community services, community development, public safety, administrative services, financial planning, and human resources. Works closely with each department to plan and coordinate activities to ensure effective service to the public and efficient conduct of all municipal affairs.

The City Manager oversees: City Clerk, Neighborhood Services Administrator, Finance Director, Park & Recreation Director, Public Works Director, The Community Development Authority, Police and Fire Commission, Library Board, and respectively oversees: Community Development Authority Director, Fire Chief, Police Chief, and the Library Director.

That’s an impressive and exhaustive list. I’m just not sure what it means to say that the city manager oversees the police chief, the fire chief, as well as the Police and Fire Commission.

There are two way to consider the city manager’s oversight.

Perhaps it means, literally, that he stands on a step ladder, and looks down on the police chief, fire chief, or PFC from on high. If that’s what oversight means, then it’s possible that Kevin Brunner does oversee these officials and this commission that way. I’ve never heard that he does this, but it’s possible, I suppose.

If, instead, the list of powers and duties means that he has legal oversight over these groups, it’s false. False, as contrary to Wisconsin law. Our laws do not place authority over these groups in the hands of the city manager, and anyone able to read can see as much under Wisconsin’s statutes. See, Police and Fire Commission: Importance and Authority.

Either the city manager has served years and years ignorant of the laws of our state, or he simply writes what he wants on the city website, ignoring that there’s a world (and law) beyond the city limits.

As a practical matter, it’s even more risible to suggest that this city manager exercises oversight, unless that means defending every error and mistake others have made. Even our PFC (astoundingly by local ordinance rather than Wisconsin statute) has no oversight over the fire department!

Is there no one upon whom this city administration relies, in all the city, who can give a city manager with a poor grasp of the law a better understanding? No one? (Here I refer to more than the recourse of the blind leading the blind.)

If, though, he assumes this authority, however presumptuously, the least he could do is exercise it well. As it is, his supposed authority has done no good for the city, mired as we are in third-tier practices.

Tonight’s an organizational meeting of the PFC, and afterward there will be closed-session interviews for a part of the meeting time, and that’s not a date that I’d propose for the introduction of television. That time while come, though, meeting in and meeting out, surely and soon.

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