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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Janesville Council Members Gruber and Marklein Should Resign

Wisconsin Statute 19.46
1) Except in accordance with the commission's advice under sub. (2) and except as otherwise provided in sub. (3), no state public official may:

(a) Take any official action substantially affecting a matter in which the official, a member of his or her immediate family, or an organization with which the official is associated has a substantial financial interest.

(b) Use his or her office or position in a way that produces or assists in the production of a substantial benefit, direct or indirect, for the official, one or more members of the official's immediate family either separately or together, or an organization with which the official is associated.

Wisconsin municipalities are expected to follow, at the minimum, state statutes regarding public officials conflicts of interest. In fact, I don't think a city council gets to vote on whether or not to follow state statutes. It's state law. However, cities can enact their own conflict of interest rules providing they are in addition to, or stricter than state statutes.

With that, the Janesville city council approved a bizarre set of different resolutions (instead of stand alone proposals) under one resolution. One of those resolutions affected the city's "conflict of interest" rules and mentions Wisconsin State Statute 19.46.

It appears however that the city council weakened the city's previous COI laws because, according to their Memorandum, it "Rewrites the “Conflict of Interest” section to only reference Wisconsin Statutes 19.46."

That can only mean they've lowered the bar on city hall conflicts of interest. Believe it or not, the policy change was approved unanimously under a broader resolution that purportedly creates a tougher code of conduct on council members. The deception of the power play here is so unbelievable it had to be planned.

However, 19.46 still covers the conflicts of interest two council members bring with them to each meeting.

Janesville Council Members Doug Marklein and Richard Gruber are members of Forward Janesville. To make matters worse, Gruber sits on the Forward Janesville board of directors. Of course that alone shouldn't demand their resignations. But while sitting on the council, both have voted on various resolutions regarding Forward Janesville proposals including the organizations' ARISE project. That includes a TIF District and amendments that are expected to fund the organization's downtown projects for the next 25 years. Their conflict of interest doesn't end there because they also vote on proposals that could be seen as competing with or not in the best interest of Forward Janesville.

Simply put, they regularly vote on proposals that benefit or protect an organization they are directly associated with. Both should resign.

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