Over the last couple of weeks, I have read all the documents made available regarding the Keene Winters issue that the city of Wausau is having. I have read everything from the City, via its website, and everything from Keene, via his website. I have thought about it, and thought about it, and tried to come up with something. And what I came up with is this….
Who cares about this crap?!?
I mean it, what did we get, what did we learn, who will be punished, what will change, does any of this matter to your daily life?
This is what I know for sure…Keene Winters acted out and was an asshole to Greg Suebert. Keene has publicly apologized for this. When confronted by the Council of the Whole (or whatever it is called), Keene claims to have spent 8K to defend himself.
It also appears that this is a pattern for Keene, and maybe for everyone at City Hall no matter what the core values chart seems to say.
What I wonder is this, what does it matter? It is not an ethics violation. Keene will not be removed from his seat on the Council. He will not be stopped from running for Mayor. What might or might not be is some sort of public record in which the City Council has officially said, “Knock it off Keene!” But, who cares? What does that mean?
What I learned is this, there is nothing from stopping City Council members from treating city staff like slaves. NOTHING. So, Keene is abusive toward Greg. Greg, as an employee has rights and protections. He seeks out his supervisor, files a report, but really nothing goes past that. The HR director cannot remove Keene from office. Cannot really do anything at all.
The Council can vote, I suppose, to officially reprimand Keene. Again, so what? He can go right back to abusing another staff member the moment the meeting ends, that person can go file a complaint, and we can repeat this process. But, ultimately, nothing happens.
What could happen though, Greg could sue the city. He could seek a legal finding, and damages from the city of Wausau for not protecting him as an employee and his right to work in a way that is free of abuse and threats. Because now we have a matter of record in which the evidence has been collected, and entered. He could sue the city, and he could sue Keene, I suppose. That has not happened yet, mainly because it seems like Greg is a good man who wants to work on his project.
Keene on the other hand, seems to show no indication of remorse, compromise, or anything else. He has dug his feet in, has been openly confrontational with City Council President Mielke, and Attorney Dean Dietrich. I have to say, I dig the righteous indignation because it is fun to watch, but the peoples business is not getting done.
So a little bit of speculation forward.
Keene Winters can now run as an insurgent. A reformer. A guy who literally fought city hall and all the powers that be. If you look at his website, his language is really heavily stilted that way, he is really going after the sort of downtown forces, the good old boys, the whole bit. I am a pretty savvy political message guy, and that is a strong message. It is going to be easy to pit the non downtown people against the so called downtown machine. This is a sort of Palin/Trump-eque blow up the establishment, class warrior, anti elitists claptrap. It is a good move. He is the martyr.
The rest of the candidates are going to have to run away from this, or simply go at Keene as the asshole candidate. I mean, that sounds fun, but the reality is that it does not work anymore. If Keene puts together a bit of a ground game, earns some media, the other candidates will be fighting for second. If they run away from this completely, and act like it did not happen, then maybe they can do something. If Keene is forced to bring his martyrdom up on his own, then that is narrative progress.
But, who knows. Mielke seems to have brought this action up, and nothing came of it at all. About 12 people watched, some media was there, but it had no traction out of that I do not think.
To be honest, it was the first City Council meeting I went to in 12 months. I have been going to the Village of Kronenwetter meetings. They are nicer.