Supervisor Radtke Steps in It
by Mae Weston City- Times Staff
For those who’ve not been, Portage County Board meetings carry a familial sense to them: perhaps it’s the invocation, or maybe it’s the rural sensibilities brought by representatives of smaller municipalities like Alban and Mill Creek.
In a group with some very strong personalities, disagreements aren’t a big surprise. But the public unveiling of seemingly unethical behavior is.
In an April 16, 2012 letter, Jim Zach (then seeking reappointment to the position of Citizen Member on the County Ethics Board) and Madame Executive Patty Dreier decried what was described as an “intimidating” answering machine message left for Zach by District 7 Supervisor Doug Radtke.
“In an effort to move forward with the best interests of our whole county at heart, it is essential that there be civility in our government process,” the letter reads.
“Intimidation and other behaviors akin to bullying or harassment have no place in a civil process…”
Radkte claims he left the message “to inform Mr. Zach of things he may not know or be aware of,” and was prompted to do so by Zach seeking reappointment as a Citizen Member to the County Ethics Board.
Radkte said he still stands in strong disagreement over motions of “non- action” made by Zach during hearings last summer regarding misuse of county funds by then- Public Health Officer Faye Tetzloff.
“I wonder what affect this will have on discussion of your request for reappointment to the County Ethics Committee,” Radtke said in a message left on Zach’s answering machine.
“Of course, if you withdraw your name from consideration before the board meeting, there will be no discussion on the floor of the county board,” he added. The April 16th letter contained a verbatim transcription of Radtke’s message, and was distributed to board members at their monthly county board meeting.
Radtke did not defend his actions when confronted, but rather insisted the message was private and wasn’t appropriate for discussion at a public board meeting.
“Some think that message was inappropriate. I question whether this letter is appropriate,” he said.
Radtke added he felt blindsided.
“You can imagine my surprise when I found on my desk a letter you all have in front you containing a private message I left on his (Zach’s) machine. I knew nothing about this (letter) before today.”
Madame Executive Dreier said Zach approached her with a concern about the subtly threatening nature of such communication. Dreier agreed it was inappropriate, saying that citizens have a right to be involved in county government without being intimidated.
James Gifford, District 14 Supervisor, agreed the public meeting wasn’t the right place for airing this grievance.
“I agree with Doug,” Gifford said. “This letter, which copies a private communication, was inappropriate to be published and placed on our desk.”
District 4 Supervisor Mike Wiza saw it differently.
“It was not a private conversation,” Wiza said. “It was left on an answering machine, where anybody in that household could have heard it, and it became Mr. Zach’s property. I appreciate the fact that it was given to us.”