Details Of Racine Mayor John Dickert’s Confidential Settlement Needs To Be Made Public

I am very proud of the mission The Journal Times of Racine is undertaking regarding unearthing the details of a slander suit brought against Racine Mayor John Dickert.  The reason for the request in opening these records has nothing to do with politics.  It does, however, have everything to do with good government.

Former city employee William Bielefeldt had sued Dickert for slander, accusing the mayor of making inappropriate comments about him on the radio while Dickert was campaigning for re-election. Taxpayers paid the first $100,000 of Dickert’s legal fees before the city’s liability insurance kicked in.

There is general agreement that the settlement records should be open. 

Deputy City Attorney Scott Lettney, who has represented the city and the mayor, said he thinks the city is obligated to comply with the newspaper’s request. However, because of the uncertainty, he wants a judge’s stamp of approval before doing so.

This does get needlessly murky.

The city taxpayers who paid $100,000 for the mayor’s slander suit, brought against him by a former employee, do not know how it was settled. The Journal Times filed an open records request with the city and mayor contending: “Taxpayers of a community have the right to know how and why their money is spent,” as per a 1994 Wisconsin Court of Appeals decision.

And now Dickert, and possibly the city, is caught between the state open records law and the confidentiality clause he agreed to with former city employee William Bielefeldt, who has reportedly refused to release the settlement. The lawsuit filed Wednesday by the city and the mayor thus asks a judge “to issue a judgment declaring the responsibilities and duties of the parties regarding the release.”

The confidentiality clause prohibits either party from releasing the agreement or disclosing its terms subject to a set penalty unless both parties agree or by an order of a court, according to the complaint against Bielefeldt. It continues: “Dickert verily believes that he is required to release the requested record pursuant to the Wisconsin Public Records Law. However, Plaintiff Dickert also verily believes that if he releases such record he is bound by the confidentiality clause of the settlement agreement and will be subject to its penalty provision.”

I am again proud that a newspaper has stepped into the role of making sure the public interest is placed ahead of individual interests.  I have long considered newspapers to be the public watchdogs when it comes to making sure government operates in the best interest of the citizenry. 

Steve Lovejoy, the editor of The Journal Times, stood by his newspaper’s decision to push for the release of the records.

“We believe it is the public’s right to know what city officials are doing and what it is costing the taxpayers, whether it be for legal bills, insurance costs – now and down the road – or costs of settlements,” he said. “How else can the public judge whether city officials are acting in their best interests unless they conduct government in an open and honest manner?”

I am hoping that people see in this story not only the need to open the records in this particular case, but also the role that newspapers continually serve in our state and nation.

Update On Earth Turtle At Orton Park

Artist Tim Sprengelmeyer emailed this message regarding Earth Turtle.  (Highlight is mine.)

First of all I want to thank everyone for your kind words and encouragement! It is truly appreciated! Unfortunately, I am going to have to remove the sculpture from the park when I return from my work trip early next week. Upon consulting with the Madison Arts Commission, they brought it to my attention that allowing a piece of art that is displayed through the Blink Grant program to stay would have a negative impact on the Commission. They said that some would see it as a bait and switch to allow something to remain after the blink period expires and this would harm the integrity of that program. There is a process of permanent art display that the commission will walk me through after the piece is removed. I will let everyone know as soon as I find out what has to happen to re install Earth Turtle. Thanks again for your support and allowing my artwork to reside in your neighborhood!

Wisconsin Republican Rep. Michelle Litjens Placed Family Values In Divorce Court

Hat Tip To Blogging Blue

I know that Wisconsin Republican Representative Michelle Litjens probably had a lot on her mind when claiming she was putting her family first as a reason for not seeking another term in the Wisconsin State Assembly.  Since she was only first elected in 2010 one had to assume that something quite serious must be happening in the family.  Sickness? A sink hole claiming the backyard? 

But no, it was something dealing with family values that struck Michelle Litjens .

How could she have forgotten to mention, while making notice of her not seeking re-election, that her family was about to be struck with a divorce.  Two kids are involved in this sad story taking place in the home of a conservative legislator, and no one can feel any glee over that.

But is it not funny how family values can come to such a screeching halt in her home, after all the ways she voted and represented herself in politics?  A severe teabagger type in public while hunting for votes, but not able to keep her family together at home.  She should have been more forthcoming with her constituents at the time she made it public she was not seeking another term.

Honesty, however, is not the top virtue for Republicans, especially not from the current batch of misfits who serve in Madison, and claim some special bond with all things home and cozy.

Apparently home is not so cozy for Michelle Litjens, and now she and her husband are seeking a divorce.

I wonder if there is a gay couple in her neighborhood to blame for this break-up?  You know, one of those long-term happy relationships with a home and plenty of smiles.

Instead of being a wing-nut Michelle Litjens should have sought out a gay couple and discovered how to make a relationship work.

Jim Packard A Natural Voice Behind The Radio Microphone, Dies

Wisconsin Public radio is a sad place today.  So is a large swath of the radio listening public.

There are those who make working in radio broadcasting look easy.  And they do it over and over.  Pretty soon the listening audience thinks it is easy.  That Jim Packard was such a professional and able to make it all seem so natural when he was on air was the key to his success, and why so many people loved him. 

His death in such an abrupt manner can be viewed with bittersweetness.  Up until the very last radio show he was doing what he loved.

How many people are fortunate enough to say the same?

“Whad’Ya Know”  will continue.  We will laugh again.  But we will never forget the way it once sounded thanks to Jim Packard.

Except for when the show was in reruns, “Whad’Ya Know” host Michael Feldman saw announcer Jim Packard almost every Saturday since 1985, when the Madison-based, nationally syndicated public radio humor and quiz show made its debut.

The last time was at their hotel after the June 9 broadcast from New York.

“I said, ‘Great show, Jim,’ and he smiled and nodded,” said Feldman, who returned to Madison that night along with the show’s crew. Packard and his wife, Deb, were staying for a few days to soak up the city and catch some Broadway shows.

Packard, 70, died Monday at a New York City hospital after being hospitalized the day after the show. He was scheduled to be released last Thursday before taking a turn for the worse.

The cause of death has not been confirmed, but Packard reportedly suffered from cardiopulmonary disease.

Feldman said “his lung function had been decreasing visibly for the past six to eight months,” but Packard was determined to make the trip to New York. “He wanted to do the New York show despite the obstacles he faced getting there.”

Feldman said Packard used an oxygen tank – “his Darth Vader thing” – backstage but worked without it when on stage.

On that last show, Feldman said, Packard “hit all his cues as always” but was “noticeably slower in his delivery. A couple times, I stepped on his line because I thought he was done.”

Vactican Can’t Stop Nuns On Bus Since These Nuns Have Credibility

What these nuns are doing to push back on Congressman Paul Ryan is fantastic.  That the Vatican thought they had any say in what these nuns should be thinking, or doing, is the same old misogyny that ‘the Church’ has so long been known for.

This tour comes on the heels of the Vatican’s attacks on American nuns for allegedly embracing “radical feminism” and being out of touch with church teachings.

It imposed sanctions on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents 57,000 (about 80 percent of) American Catholic nuns, saying they were spreading the wrong ideas about the all-male priesthood, marriage and homosexuality.

The role of women in the church isn’t a Nuns on the Bus issue, though Campbell said they are concerned about it. But that didn’t stop a local abortion foe from posting an online diatribe against the traveling nuns that said: “Sorry, Sisters … affirming people in their sodomite sin, promoting the slaughter of the innocent preborn, and being in arrogant disobedience to the church (and by extension, to God himself) is scandalous and utterly anti-Catholic.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, by the way, has also called on Congress and the administration to reject proposed cuts in domestic and international hunger and nutrition programs.

Nuns have long been associated with charity, said Campbell, of Los Angeles who quoted from the 2009 encyclical of Pope Benedict: “Charity and justice are both based in love, but you can’t have charity until everyone has justice.”

Says the Rev. Michael Amodeo, the priest at Holy Trinity, “This is what women religious have been doing for decades — highlighting the poor and marginalized, but also asking some tough questions,” about the root causes of hunger and homelessness.

Among those cheering the Nuns on the Bus is Amy Colony, formerly of Carlisle, and now living in Denver, where she’s an attorney with the Colorado attorney general’s office.

Watching the tour launch from afar, she wrote me, “They are precisely what I used to love and revere about the Catholic Church before I decided I could no longer tolerate the anti-woman stuff and exclusion of my gay brothers and sisters — and I had to walk away.” These nuns, she said, “are my heroes. True servants of Christ and true feminists.”

After hearing what the sisters were saying, I had to agree. Religion at its best isn’t just about personal morality or spiritual beliefs.

The most credible religious leaders stand up for the downtrodden and marginalized, both in words and in deeds, challenging power structures when necessary and evolving their teachings to stay relevant.