Boots & Sabers

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2035, 17 Jan 18

West Bend School Board Quorum at Convention

This is interesting.


The deal is that four members of the West Bend School Board are attending this convention. That constitutes a quorum of the School Board, so they rightfully posted it. But this seems to violate Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law which states:

19.81 (2) To implement and ensure the public policy herein expressed, all meetings of all state and local governmental bodies shall be publicly held in places reasonably accessible to members of the public and shall be open to all citizens at all times unless otherwise expressly provided by law.

Is this conference generally open to the public? Can I just go sit in the meetings and watch? Is a meeting in Milwaukee “reasonable accessible to members of the public” from the West Bend School District?

It would seem prudent for one of the school board members to hang back to avoid any legal risk to the district.


2035, 17 January 2018


  1. Monte

    I asked John Ashley, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, about posting when he was here not long ago.  I think I even made a remark about the public not being able to attend.  He said it should be posted.  He didn’t say members could not go.  Accordingly, I spoke to Deb Roench, Executive Secretary, about posting it.

    There are thousands of people there.  I observed whole boards standing in proximity to be recognized when awards were given to staff members.  I am avoiding gatherings with multiple members and not carpooling with anyone.  Could the situation be abused?  Yes.  I guess you have to allow members some level of integrity.

  2. Owen

    Thanks for checking and sharing. Also, thanks for getting it posted so that the public can know.

  3. jjf

    Wis. Stat. 19.82(2) says a meeting is defined as:


    “Meeting” means the convening of members of a governmental body for the purpose of exercising the responsibilities, authority, power or duties delegated to or vested in the body. If one-half or more of the members of a governmental body are present, the meeting is rebuttably presumed to be for the purpose of exercising the responsibilities, authority, power or duties delegated to or vested in the body. The term does not include any social or chance gathering or conference which is not intended to avoid this subchapter, […]

  4. Le Roi du Nord


    Exactly.  This week was also the WCHA convention.  There was probably a quorum of the majority of county highway committees present at the convention.  In spite of SS 19.82(2) we still post an agenda for the convention attendance.   Some folks just want to see a conspiracy under every mote of dust.

  5. Mark Hoefert

    I think Owen’s concerns are more than “seeing a conspiracy under every mote of dust”.   Our local school district board is basically being run as a Parent Teacher Organization and there is a recent history of what could be construed as violations of open meetings laws.  Back when that controversy was going on one of their surrogates sent me a threatening private message on Facebook advising that if she were on the Board, I would have been “served” that day for slander for my postings citing statutes and content from the WI Public Records Guide to open records.  This person was obviously clueless that slander laws to not apply to commenting on the performance of public officials,  if comments are not based on malice or purposeful misinformation.  The next day several members of the community spoke to the Board and  numerous speakers made some of the same points I had.  Not sure what kind of threats they received in the aftermath.

    Ironic, at the Wisconsin State Education Convention site there is a link to “Legal & ethical standards related to attendance at the State Education Convention.”, but that content is not available to non-members.


  6. Jason

    >Some folks just want to see a conspiracy under every mote of dust.

    While that may be true, what’s more accurate to the purveyors and frequent visitors to this blog is that we prefer blinding light to show no possibility of conspiracy. The fact that you’re snarky about that shows that you’re an elitist prick.

    Enough feeding the troll for today.

  7. Le Roi du Nord


    Yup, that name-calling really proves a point.  If the state statute isn’t good enough for you folks, then get it changed.  If the local SB is just a glorified PTO, elect somebody else.  That is democracy in action..

  8. Mark Hoefert

    Nope, ain’t got no time for changing state statutes or electing someone else (I would think someone of your intellectual caliber would understand staggered terms, but as the kids used to say “what-ev”) or doing recalls.  Too much money at risk, action needed now.  WBSD may be on the hook for perhaps $300,000 in payments to outgoing superintendent, and the administrative office has become a revolving door.  The operations side is down an Assistant Superintendent, a Director of Finance, and Finance Manager. In the meantime, money is being spent on the lead up to a building referendum that is doomed to failure – most voters I talk to are not in the mood to pass something like that in the current state of chaos, dysfunction, and costs due to Board members on a learning curve.

    There are enough people (like Owen, sometimes me) that are willing to “educate” the Board members that need it.  Part of that is shining that “blinding light” on what they are doing.  Who knows, maybe they will become Board members worthy of reelection.  They ran on #AccountabilityNow” or #TransparencyNow” as if prior board members were not doing that – they are getting exactly what they campaigned for – Owen is helping that along, obviously.  It is their choice if they can handle that.




  9. Kevin Scheunemann

    As long as potential quorum is posted under open meetings law, I don’t have a beef with it.   If someone does have a “beef”, they are allowed to go to gathering and observe if business is taking place unnoticed.

  10. Le Roi du Nord


    We agree.  Mark that down !

  11. Sacks

    “That is democracy in action.”

    Let’s not confuse democracy with republic. As an alleged elected official of a democratic republic yourself amongst us Peasants, I’m hopeful you understand the difference.

    Mark: Agree – especially in the current era of open enrollment, and good PR vs bad PR vs No PR. There are families making decisions whether WB schools are the right choice. Although I don’ live in WB school district, I do hope its elected leadership can realize the value of “good” PR. To astute parents, it can be a difference maker.

  12. jjf

    No doubt there are all sorts of interesting open meetings / open records questions when it comes to these sorts of professional associations.  There are some for elected officials, be they school board members or county clerks.  There are many for government employees – park directors, streets managers, engineers, etc.  Some organizations have dues, some are paid by the employee, some get paid by the city/county. If you have an organization of elected county clerks that’s 100% funded by clerks, does it mean their conventions need be open to the public?

    For elected officials, the open meetings law attempts to let the public watch the process of deliberation. It isn’t perfect. It’s also carried out by people, they’re not perfect, either.

    At the smallest level, say a five-person subcommittee with a quorum of three, that means two people form a negative quorum that could block any action at the smallest meeting – yes, that means you’re not supposed to talk to anyone else on that subcommittee about any subcommittee business outside of an official posted meeting.

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