Monday, October 24th, 2016

Jeff Barta letter to the Common Council


Business Improvement District (BID) Board Member Jeff Barta sent the following email to the members of the Waukesha Common Council:

Dear Alderpersons,

I hope the stories of bullying you heard from downtown businesses resonated with the need for Council Action. These individuals came forth and shared their stories to give credence to Meghan Sprager’s accusations of a hostile work environment. It was not easy for them to share the fact that they were victims of this behavior and they know there will be ramifications against them because they spoke out. Please don’t let these brave individuals down.

The BID Board took no real action to address the accusations of a hostile work environment made by our Executive Director Meghan Sprager. This board is paralyzed by fear and does not have the ability to do what is right; removing those responsible for creating this hostile work environment. It is clear that the problems lie with the lack of leadership. There is a pattern of behavior that cannot be ignored. In less than one year our president has been involved in numerous incidents.

· First, Norm Bruce was involved with the Guitartown controversy of washing the money from the mayor’s New Day fund through the BID.
· He removed an acknowledgement of Shawn Reilly’s 2011 presidency of the BID out of spite at the BID’s annual meeting.
· Norm was investigated for an ethics violation for obstruction and adding to the costs of an open records request from columnist and blogger James Wigderson.
· Now Bruce has been accused of creating a hostile workplace at the BID resulting in the resignation of the staff.
· Mr. Bruce held an Executive Committee meeting at 7:15 Tuesday morning despite being informed by Shawn Reilly that it was not properly posted and was therefore an illegal meeting. Mr. Reilly appropriately did not participate in the meeting. Mr. Bruce held the meeting, an indication that he feels the rules don’t apply to him. How would the council be treated if they didn’t follow the rules?
· When confronted with the issue of transition, he put forth the idea that the very people accused of creating the hostile work environment should determine the course of action for the BID.
· When informed that wasn’t an appropriate response to the situation and the idea of an ad hoc committee was presented, he named himself chair of the committee. Only after objections did he name Steve Kassens chair of the committee, yet he remained on the committee.
· The BID Ad Hoc committee is clearly not working in the best interests of the BID. Norm Bruce should have not been on this Board.

The BID could have made an effort to retain Meghan and chose not to, despite being ill prepared to address its daily needs. There is a lot of he said / she said in this fight. Taking the accusations completely out of the equation, the BID Board clearly has lost public confidence. In my opinion, leadership will stall and delay until appointments are made in November so there will be no real ramifications. The BID Board should be removed as it is clearly dysfunctional and blindly following BID leadership. Please support the referral of Alderpersons Cummings and Payne.Please feel free to call if you have any questions or concerns.

Jeff Barta
BID Board member

This prompted a reply from Mayor Jeff Scrima, who is clearly intent on saving his allies on the BID Board including BID President Norm Bruce:

Dear Mr. Barta,

We understand your feelings of disappointment with the entire BID board, and your documented opposition to street closings for Freeman Friday Night Live. However, be reminded that the decision making power of the board rests with the majority of the board. At the BID board meeting on Tuesday, September 4th your motion to remove 3 BID board members was defeated by the board with a 9 to 3 vote. At that same meeting the board voted to create an ad hoc transition team (made up of Steve Kassens, Norm Bruce and Ron Lostetter) with a 11 to 1 vote (which you supported). Mr. Barta, the simple truth is that your comments below are not representative of the entire board, and an attempt to discredit individuals and board policy.

Jeff Scrima
Mayor, City of Waukesha
201 Delafield Street
Waukesha WI 53188

Note: Not one of the concerns expressed by Jeff Barta had anything to do with Freeman Friday Night Live.

Barta responded hastily to the mayor:

Mayor Scrima,

The simple truth is this has nothing to do with the street closure issue. It has to do with the conduct of Bid board members and their impact on the board. For you to suggest ofherwise is a blatant and transparent attempt to discredit me and others downtown that have come forward with real concerns. I would expect better from the mayor’s office. Additionally, my opinions are my own and were never represented as the boards. My Undsrstanding of public service is that I should stand up for what I believe is right. You can expect my resignation from the board early next week as I can no longer participate with a board in which I have no confidence in the leadership or current direction. The only reason i delay my resignation is as a symbolic support of Meghan Sprager. It is sad state of affairs that more effort appears to be spent on covering up this scandal than on getting to the truth.

Our mayor responded shortly after, hoping to end the discussion:

Mr. Barta,

We can agree to disagree on this issue. Hopefully we will agree with each other on other issues in the future!

Mayor Scrima

Mayor Scrima

The hapless Alderman Roger Patton figures out how to use email and weighs in with a vision of the apocalypse:

Dear Jeff {Barta},

I do not want you to resign from the board. We need the diversity you provide.

I know you have been fighting the BID board without success for a
long time over FFNL and the street closings. Hasn’t that, in itself,
created a hostile work environment for both paid and volunteer
workers? Because who knows who is in charge and what are the long
term goals. Your long list of grievances is very detailed, but
hopefully will be improved in the future. Please look forward with
patience. We all deplore our paid staff leaving us, but we cannot
lose, as you hope, the BID leadership, which organizes and carries
out, successfully, FFNL. If you have your way in getting rid of this
leadership, our downtown could become a ghost town. You have too much invested to see that happen. So please stick with us.

Your friend,
Roger Patton

So Patton absurdly accused Barta of creating the hostile working environment (wonder if Patton knows what it means) and just as absurdly said if the BID leadership is removed that downtown will become a “ghost town.” Even more absurd, Patton related the matter to Freeman Friday Night Live, stating that the event is run by the BID. That is incorrect. It is run by the Waukesha Downtown Business Association.

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