Members of the Kewaunee County Land & Water Conservation committee are Supervisors Lee Luft, left, John Pagel, Ron Paider and Chuck Wagner.
CLARIFICATION: I originally reported that John Pagel stepped down as chairman of the Land & Water Conservation Committee but received this note from County Board Chairman Robert Weidner:
”Mr. Pagel is the chairman of the Land & Water committee. He asked Mr. Wagner to be acting chair of the committee until all appointments expire in April 2018. Mr. Wagner will serve as acting chair until then. All duties of the LW chair will remain with Mr. Pagel but at his discretion he may grant specified responsibilities to the vice chair, Mr. Wagner. Sorry if this was not explained properly yesterday.”
Kewaunee County Board Supervisor used his discretion as chairman of the Land & Water Conservation Committee to relinquish control of a joint meeting with the Health Committee on Thursday.
The hand-over occurred before the committees got into the business of the day, a line-by-line review of a proposed ordinance regulating liquid manure spreading in the county.
“Due to so many people believing in me trying to manipulate the ordinance and/or other issues in the Soil and Water Department, I’m going to have the vice chair of this committee chair this meeting and for the duration of this term,” Pagel said.
Pagel handed the reins to Supervisor Chuck Wagner, the committee’s vice chairman. The current term runs until the board’s organizational meeting after the April 3 elections.
He said the committee has done good work in the three and a half years he has served as chairman.
“Our county has made huge strides in efforts to improve water quality in Kewaunee County,” Pagel said.
Wagner said he appreciates all that Pagel has done as the committee chairman.
“I think it’s very important that large-farmer representation as well as Mr. (Ron) Paider, who is a retired smaller farmer … representing the farmer’s perspective on this committee,” Wagner said. “It’s absolutely important, very necessary, in order to get fair and balanced observations and opinions.”
Pagel has come under fire this summer because of a perceived conflict of interest between his role as chairman of the committee tasked to protect land and water and his business interests as owner of the largest dairy in the county, Pagel’s Ponderosa.
It was revealed Thursday that additional concern has been expressed over a meeting held at his business Oct. 11, in which Pagel, County Administrator Scott Feldt and several other dairy owners met to discuss possible changes to the proposed ordinance.
Corporation Counsel Jeff Wisnicky said the gathering of “eight or nine folks” did not violate the state Open Meetings Law because Pagel was the only elected official in attendance.
“In order to be covered under the Open Meetings Law, you have to have enough people representing either a committee or the board present to take action,” Wisnicky said. “Here we had only one supervisor present.”
Elected officials are free and even encouraged to go about the community listening to concerns, he said.
Feldt put together a memo with changes suggested at the meeting and forwarded it to Wisnicky, who then inadvertently sent it to the County Clerk for inclusion in the packet of information for the board’s Oct. 17 meeting, Wisnicky said.
Chairman Robert Weidner announced at that meeting that the wrong version of the draft ordinance had been sent to supervisors. The board voted 15-5 to send the measure back to committee.