Wiza: Media Overreacting to Ordinance Officer Vacancy
“Positions get refilled all the time…I don’t know why this is such a big deal.”
By Brandi Makuski
There’s nothing unusual about Dan Trelka leaving the ordinance control officer position, according to Mayor Mike Wiza — in fact, he said, it’s not uncommon for city staff positions to become vacant from time to time.
Trelka was hired on Aug. 25 to fill the role created by Wiza in June, but the position quickly garnered criticism from residents who said they felt over-policed by the city.
Trelka’s April 15 resignation, and his subsequent hiring as a community service officer by the Stevens Point Police Dept., were not noticed for the public thanks to a change in city policy made last September. At that time, Ald. Tony Patton questioned the need for city leaders to continually approve hiring decisions for positions already included in the annual budget. Wiza agreed, and the city council unanimously approved the change on Sept. 21.
Prior to the change, city policy required the public be notified of personnel changes, and that discussion related to the hiring be a public one via the personnel committee. Now, those decisions are made internally and without public input.
Newly-created positions will still need the approval of the personnel committee and city council, Wiza said.
Refilling Trelka’s position isn’t a priority just yet for the city, Wiza said, adding long-awaited updates to property maintenance ordinances should be complete before refilling the spot.
“We’ve got some policies that haven’t been looked at in decades,” Wiza said. “It makes sense if there are going to be changes coming, we don’t want to train [a new ordinance officer] on the old codes.”
Wiza also questioned the controversy surrounding Trelka’s resignation, saying it “wasn’t sudden” and also saying resignations are not uncommon in any municipal government.
“Are we supposed to alert the media every time someone resigns? Should we alert you when someone from the streets department leaves?” Wiza asked a City Times reporter in an April 26 interview. “I didn’t realize people cared –what’s the news? You talk there’s something hidden, like there’s something we’re not saying about this. The position is still there, it’s just that someone else is going to be doing it.”
When asked if he considered the new policy to be in keeping with his platform of government transparency, Wiza shrugged and said the information was available for any who asked.
“I don’t know [to] what threshold the public wants to know,” Wiza said. “If you want to know, show up once a week and ask Lisa [Jakusz, director of human resources] for a list of everybody that’s resigning or taking a different position within the city; I don’t know why this is a such a big deal.”
At the Sept. personnel committee, Wiza said the change would “lighten the load” of the committee agendas. Last week, he said requests to refill positions came before the committee “every two or three months”, also noting “every single one of them has been approved”.
“Obviously the council has some sort of comfort level,” Wiza said. “If [the position] is already budgeted for, we don’t need to see it. So if it’s new, or changing, we want to see it.”
Wiza also said if the city gets a lot of feedback from residents on the new policy, the council may look at changing it again.
“If we hear that the people want to see everything, then maybe we can look at just noticing…well, you don’t want to notice departures; you want to notice openings,” he said.
Updates to the city’s property maintenance codes have been ongoing for months, and are on Monday’s agenda for the city plan commission, which meets at 6 PM in the Lincoln Center, 1519 Water Street. The public is invited to attend.