Case Name: Baldwin-Woodville School District Complaint

Type of Case: Open Meetings

Complaint Filed: January 20, 2012

Current status: Closed; District Attorney and Attorney General declined to file a formal lawsuit

On December 19, 2011, the Baldwin-Woodville School District Board of Education held its regular monthly meeting.  During that meeting, the Board went into closed session, where they agreed to spend $100,000 by giving each of the District’s 200-or-so employees a $500 bonus.  However, the required notice of the closed session merely quoted the statutory exception to open meetings laws for purposes of “considering employment, promotion, compensation or performance evaluation data of any public employee,” without being more specific.

On behalf of a local concerned citizen, WILL filed a complaint with the St. Croix County District Attorney and the Wisconsin Attorney General.  The complaint alleged that the Board violated open meetings laws by: (1) failing to give sufficient notice that bonuses would be discussed; (2) failing to follow the proper procedure for going into closed session; and (3) improperly using closed sessions to discuss and agree on across-the-board bonuses.

The DA and AG both reviewed the complaint and agreed that we had raised a meritorious claim, but – as is nearly always the case for open meetings matters – decided not to prosecute because of a lack of resources.  At that point, the major goal of bringing attention to this violation and putting the Board on notice of its deficiencies had been accomplished, so we decided not to file a private lawsuit in the case.  Nobody involved wanted a court to order the 200 employees to return the bonus.