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Mayor Tipple comments on recent staff issues


WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) -- Wausau’s mayor has opinions about how the city’s two recent high-profile staffing issues have been handled.

First, former Department of Public Works Director Brad Marquardt is gone amid controversy over how certain projects were handled. City council members have worked to block Mayor Jim Tipple from hiring a replacement, but Tipple believes that the council’s stalling of the hiring process is bad for the city.  “I think they’re realizing that either we look at a temporary DPW and utilities director, or actively engage in the DPW-utility director, permanent.”

Right now, public works and utilities is under the temporary direction of the Mayor’s office, but Mayor Tipple believes the position should be filled before the city council’s proposed analysis of government operations.  “There isn’t a city in the country that doesn’t have a permanent position like that.  Analyzing an internal organization thing is one part, but not filling it until that process is done I think is unconscionable.”  He adds, “It shouldn’t be a council decision. That’s an operational thing, replacing people that have left or retired and whatever, so there’s like a little struggle there, but I think at the end of the day we’ll do the right thing and move it forward.”

The other issue is the recent disciplinary action against City Finance Director Maryanne Groat. An internal review found Groat overstepped her authority, and harassed another city employee. When the document was released through open records requests, nearly half of the details were blacked out, or redacted. Tipple defends withholding that information.  “I think it was, you know, from the attorneys point of view, I think the redactions were appropriate. They are discipline steps, and it would be unfair to expose those to staff and everything because we need to relate or interact with employees, and those steps potentially could be sensitive, and so I think it was appropriate to redact them.”

Mayor Tipple pointed out that in the private sector, this wouldn’t be an issue and details like this would remain confidential, but since Groat is a public employee, he gets requests to release details he believes cannot be made public.  “It makes sense, from my standpoint, from a personnel standpoint, it certainly probably doesn’t make sense to the media. They would want everything, but I think it’s sensitive enough in nature to redact that, and our attorneys gave us that advice.”

Groat’s punishment includes a couple of weeks of unpaid suspension, to be taken at her convenience before the end of the year. Nearly every other detail about her disciplinary action has been kept secret.