DA decision on county board complaint ~ Monroe County

March 13, 2018

[SPARTA WI] Monroe County District Attorney, Kevin D. Croninger announced today that he will not take action on a complaint filed by Attorney Jack Buswell of Sparta on February 20, 2018. Buswell filed the complaint on behalf of 12 residents of the Sparta area over concerns of how the Monroe County Board handled the process for deciding where a new county nursing home facility would be constructed. Croninger emphasized in a letter to Buswell on Monday, that declining to act was not a statement on whether Buswell’s complaint had legal basis. Rather, District Attorney Croninger indicated that he declined to act on Buswell’s complaint because doing so would likely lead to an appearance of impropriety, as the Monroe County Board of Supervisors approves the budget for the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office. Croninger stated, ”The people of Monroe County deserve to have these issues addressed by someone who will have absolutely no appearance of impropriety or actual conflict.”

Given Croninger’s decision, Wisconsin law now allows Buswell and the other complainants to go forward with their complaint on their own if they so desire.

District Attorney Croninger decision letter follows:

March 12, 2018

Re: Alleged Violation of Wisconsin Open Meetings Law By Members of the Monroe County Board of Supervisors

Dear Attorney Buswell,

I have reviewed the information provided in your complaint of February 20, 2018. I want to thank you and the other citizens referenced in your complaint for your interest in and concern for free and open government. As you know, I am a strong supporter of open government and believe it is a cornerstone of American democracy. The purpose of this letter is to inform you that after significant consideration, I have determined it would be at worst improper and at best a disservice to the people of Monroe County, for me to take action on your complaint. My inaction should not be considered a position showing favor either for or against your complaint. Rather, I decline to act because I believe a decision on your complaint would potentially have the appearance of impropriety.

As I am sure you are aware the Monroe County Board of Supervisors approves the budget for my office. Given this fact and the highly contentious nature of the situation your complaint references, I believe that any decision I would make would likely appear to be improperly motivated. I will confess that this has been a very difficult decision for me. I am not a person of inaction and believe that part of the reason the people of Monroe County elected me to this office is to make hard decisions. However, in this case, I believe doing so would be a disservice to the people of Monroe County. The people of Monroe County deserve to have these issues addressed by someone who will have absolutely no appearance or actual conflict.

As I am sure you are aware, given I have declined to take action on your complaint Wis. Stat. §19.97(4) allows you and the other complainants to bring an action under Wis. Stat. §19.97(1)-(3). Thank you again for your interest in and concern for free and open government. Please let me know if you have an questions.

Thank you,

Kevin D. Croninger

District Attorney