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Journal Times editorial: Public meetings must include the public, in person or remotely
Our Perspective

Journal Times editorial: Public meetings must include the public, in person or remotely

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Unlike other government boards, the Kenosha County Board continues to meet in person.

They decided that in early April when they rejected extending County Executive Jim Kreuser’s emergency order for three more months.

He later put in another 30-day order and had this to say about the County Board:

“I am uncertain why certain members of the County Board are unable to appreciate the danger caused by even smaller gatherings like in-person meetings,” Kreuser said when he extended his order. “... I urge members of the Board to reconsider their action in regards to the emergency resolution, look to the greater good of Kenosha County, and fo the right thing by adopting virtual meeting language.”

Fast forward to last week, with the board — fresh off an election and continuing to meet in person — going in a certain entrance of the Administration Building with two sheriff’s deputies on security.

Given the sheriff’s staffing, with multiple staffers quarantined with COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms, the last place they should be is outside of a meeting which should be held remotely at this time.

But they were there, and last Tuesday night they intercepted a citizen who had come in the employee entrance to attend the meeting.

It was a public meeting, she said, and despite suggestions that the public should not attend she showed up. Just like the board members.

Yet she was stopped by the sheriff’s deputies, handcuffed, escorted out, and given two tickets and a court date after 20 minutes in the squad car. She has a July 1 court date and is looking at a maximum ticket cost of $767.50 each.

Mary Magdalen Moser of Kenosha is angry, as is her board supervisor, Zach Rodriguez. And you should be, too.

Nobody should be arrested in Kenosha County, in Wisconsin, or anywhere in this country for simply attending a public meeting.

Those sheriff’s deputies should not have been there in the first place. Neither should the County Board members. They should be meeting remotely.

Rodriguez said a change to virtual meetings would only require an adjustment to the board’s rules.

And he took exception to a statement regarding citizen comments that was listed on last Tuesday’s agenda.

“The part that troubles me the most is, if you look at our agenda, it very clearly states, it’s highlighted in red, it’s in bold lettering, that we’re asking the public not to come,” he said. “It doesn’t say you will not be let in the doors, and it certainly doesn’t say you will be met with force and arrested at the door for trying to attend.

“I get that this is a very troubling time, and we’re all trying to figure it out as we go, and it’s new to everybody. This is something that shouldn’t have happened, outright, plain and simple.”

On that he’s right, and the County Board has a choice moving forward. Meet remotely like other boards during this time, or prepare to allow the public to attend in-person meetings.

It’s quite simple. And it’s the law.


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