EagleHerald Editor

MARINETTE—A Marinette alderman has filed a lawsuit against the city and the common council.

Ward 3 Alderman Doug Oitzinger, a former Marinette mayor, filed the lawsuit Nov. 17 in Marinette County Circuit Court Branch 2. The lawsuit contends the city violated the open meetings law on two occasions. No court date has been set.

Oitzinger, contacted Thursday, directed calls to his attorney. “I would like to say one thing,” Oitzinger said, “This is about open government. That’s all it’s about.”

Oitzinger is represented by Thomas C. Kamenick of Port Washington, Wis. Kamenick is the president of the Wisconsin Transparency Project and he specializes in open meetings law. A call to his office was not returned as of press time.

Count 1 of the lawsuit alleges the common council, on Oct. 6, 2020, went into closed session to discuss “negotiations and review of an agreement with JCI/Tyco regarding bio-solid equipment,” which the council voted in open session to approve without further discussion. Oitzinger, in the suit, states, “the closed session was therefore not necessary because competitive or bargaining reasons did not require a closed session. Marinette did not need to go into closed session to protect its bargaining strategy from JCI/Tyco because it did not bargain with JCI/Tyco but rather accepted the contract as presented.”

Count 2 alleges the common council, on Oct. 7, 2020, went into closed session to discuss “with legal counsel regarding the status of water supply alternative analysis” to receive a report from the civil engineering firm about the status of its analysis.” Oitzinger, in the suit, states, the common council did not discuss anything about bargaining or competition. Rather, two engineering consultants presented an overview of water supply alternatives and the technical aspects and pros and cons of each. The council discussed those alternatives and reached a consensus that the engineering study should not proceed any further until the Town of Peshtigo formally requested water from the city.

“The closed session was therefore not necessary because there were no competitive or bargaining interests and even if there were, they did not require a closed session. Marinette did not need to go into closed session to receive and discuss a report from the civil engineering firm.”

Oitzinger is requesting the following relief: Judgment against defendants declaring they violated the Open Meetings Law; Judgment voiding any actions taken by the defendants at any meeting held in violation of the Open Meetings Law; Judgment against defendants for the actual and necessary costs of prosecution, including reasonable attorney fees; and such other relief as the court deems appropriate.

A call to Mayor Steve Genisot’s office was not returned as of press time.