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Council right to override Scrima’s veto

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Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Jun 23, 2011; Section:Opinion; Page Number:8A
Council right to override Scrima’s veto
Mayor’s erratic behavior raises too many questions

It was interesting Tuesday night to watch many of the supporters of Mayor Jeff Scrima ask for “decorum” in response to Alderman Terry Thieme’s guest opinion column in the Waukesha Freeman. Since many of them were making repeat performances during the public comment portion of the meeting, I’m sure at least some of them might have felt a little bit hypocritical.

But speaking of decorum, if we are going to continue to bring up the council’s decision to remove the mayor from a direct role in supervising the city administrator, now a year old, we should remember that it was precisely the mayor’s personal conduct that led in part to the council’s decision.

The council, acting on a complaint to the Human Resources department, determined that the mayor was unfit to serve in a supervisory role over the city administrator. If the mayor disagreed with that determination, he could have vetoed the council’s decision. He did not, and we can only assume that the council’s explanation to the mayor in that closed-door meeting was rather compelling given the evidence.

Perhaps it is because the aldermen, as former Alderman Peggy Bull has said publicly, were concerned that the mayor’s behavior might have resulted in a lawsuit unless the change was made.

I bring it up again not only because Scrima’s supporters continue to bring it up, but to address the question of why the council might consider putting the mayor on the city’s water negotiation team.

If we were talking about anyone other than Jeff Scrima as mayor of Waukesha, most people would not object to his serving on the negotiating team. But we are not talking about just anyone as mayor, we are talking about Scrima.

In response to a direct question from Alderman Vance Skinner, the mayor announced he now supports the city’s application for Great Lakes water. This must have been a tremendous shock to Scrima’s supporters. Perhaps Waukesha School Board member Steve Edlund will now petition to reduce the mayor to parttime now that Scrima no longer agrees with him on the city’s water application.

Unfortunately, the mayor has a history of changing his position on the Great Lakes water application, from outright opposition to a willingness to consider supporting it. One local business owner even predicted the mayor will change his mind by Friday, just in time for a Friday afternoon memo.

If we cannot judge the mayor by his words, can we judge him by his actions? Outside of the meetings of the Common Council, the mayor has done everything he can to oppose the city’s application.

Part of the application process is to obtain agreement with a potential water supplier. Putting someone who is opposed to the water application into the negotiating process is an invitation to scuttle the entire process, especially given the sensitive nature of the negotiations.

Let’s add in the mayor’s history of strange behavior since taking office. From tape recording a conversation to a strangely obsessive antipathy to the city administrator, Scrima’s erratic behavior would certainly call into question whether he has the necessary maturity to serve in such an important role.

How many Friday memos would we expect from Scrima if he were allowed to sit in on the negotiating sessions?

The council was right to override the mayor’s veto Tuesday night and keep the negotiating committee as is. They already have a provision to allow others to serve as needed.

There is no reason to worry about whether the committee has three people or seven. This isn’t a hockey game.

This is about having the right people with the right expertise with the best interests of the city at heart involved in the negotiations. Unfortunately, none of that applies to the mayor.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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