Waukesha BID Board members continue to clash over developments after Sprager's resignation

Published on: 8/31/2012

Waukesha Business Improvement District Board members will have to wait until after the Labor Day holiday to formally discuss Meghan Sprager's resignation.

Sprager, the outgoing BID executive director, said in a phone interview late Wednesday afternoon that the meeting to discuss her departure has been scheduled for 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at The Rotunda, 235 W. Broadway, in downtown Waukesha.

The meeting will begin open as the BID Board will discuss and possibly take action "to authorize the executive committee to plan and implement the BID's daily operations during the transition period."

According to the agenda, released at 8:08 p.m. Wednesday evening by BID President Norm Bruce, the BID Board will then go into closed session "to discuss the conditions of employment involving the resignation of Sprager."

While that part of the meeting will be closed, no one is certainly hiding their feelings anymore. 

After Sprager announced her resignation Aug. 21 due to a “hostile work environment,” Jeff Barta, a BID Board member and owner of the Nice Ash cigar bar, and downtown property owner Christine VanderBloemen, also a Board member, made a request the next day that there be a special meeting to discuss Sprager's resignation.

"This is a serious matter," their joint letter stated. "I think it (is) important for us as a Board to address this issue immediately and decisively. The Board has a responsibility to discuss how this happened and how to make sure it doesn't ever happen again.

"The circumstances surrounding Meghan's departure from the BID are unacceptable and require immediate action from the Board."

Their letter, which was sent to Kerry MacKay, the BID's secretary and owner of The Steaming Cup in downtown Waukesha, said that due to the 72-hour notice needed to call a BID Board meeting, the earliest they could meet was Aug. 27.

Their letter also stated that the two arranged for The Rotunda to be available that morning.

But that day came and went and no meeting took place. Bruce said there were many reasons for the delay.

Bruce said in an email to BID Board members Wednesday night that he has used the resources from the Waukesha City Attorney's Office and the Waukesha Human Resource Department "to make sure we are handling agenda items correctly." He added that the delay was because of both the Open Meeting Laws and the BID's by-laws as did finding a place available to hold the meeting.

He concluded that the recent resignation of the BID's Environmental Manager John Ward also raised new concerns of planning for the daily operation of the BID.

His email did not sit well with VanderBloemen.

"Your explanations for not having the secretary of the BID call this meeting on the day that Jeff and I had requested and had secured a location is pathetic at best," VanderBloemen wrote in a reply at 11:10 p.m. Wednesday night to BID Board members and members of the local media.

She then references Section 3.07 and 3.09 of the BID by-laws, accusing Bruce of not following these laws.

Section 3.07 says that special meetings of the board may be called at any time and for any purpose or purposes by the president. A special meeting shall also be called by the secretary upon the written request of any two directors. Any such meeting shall be held at a time and place designated in the notice thereof to be given as provided in Sec. 3.09.

Section 3.09 stats that notice of the date, time and place of all meetings of the Board, regular, annual or special, shall be given by the secretary of the BID to each director as required by law. In addition, such notice shall either be delivered personally or transmitted to each director at his or her business address or at such other address as such director shall have designated, not less than 72 hours before said meeting. 

"Instead you chose to ignore the by-laws and do it "your way" by calling all the board members to see if they could attend the requested date (Aug. 27)," VanderBloemen wrote. "The only thing required to hold this special meeting was a quorum of seven of the BID Board members (citing Sec. 3.10). It was not necessary to see if every member could attend. This approach by you is in direct violation of Section 3.07.

"As the president, it is your responsibility to know, understand and follow the by-laws of the BID. In this case you did not.

"If you spent a great deal of time working on this request is because you chose to ignore the BID by-laws. Rather, you turned something simple into a major undertaking."

VanderBloemen went on to say that Ward's resignation should not have had anything to do with the special meeting because her and Barta's letter was only about Sprager's resignation. "This is just another tactic you are using to delay this meeting and to do it your way," VanderBloemen added.

VanderBloemen then said that she will address all her concerns at the special meeting before going into closed session Tuesday.

Sprager also replied to Bruce Thursday afternoon and included the BID Board as well as all the Common Council members showing her upset to the whole timeline of events and due to emails from Bruce asking her to work on the agenda after business hours Wednesday night.

"I have always been willing to stay late to work on BID priorities," Sprager wrote, before adding, "you did not provide me with advance notice that we would be formalizing the agenda after normal business hours.

"I am responding in this manner because your last email was meant to discredit and manipulate me. It is a tactic you have used against me repeatedly, and I no longer will allow myself to be subjected to such treatment."   

Bruce responded stating it was a simple request and "nothing else."

Sprager is stepping down Sept. 8 after a little more than a year in the position. Sprager is leaving to work at a non-profit organization outside the Waukesha area.

She cited that the current BID leadership provides a playground for manipulation and excessive bullying and that there is a lack of civil discourse.