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Public demands answers on officials' departures

Sauk County Board Chairman Marty Krueger speaks to supervisors during a meeting in December.

Sauk County Board Chair Marty Krueger took steps outside the public’s view to bring forth a candidate who may become the county’s next chief administrator.

Krueger brought that candidate before a committee he chairs Tuesday, but never reached out to other applicants the committee previously told him it wanted to consider.

Those revelations raise new questions about the process to replace former Sauk County Administrative Coordinator Renae Fry, who signed a $135,000 separation agreement Dec. 2 after an undisclosed list of allegations against her emerged.

Public decision

During a Dec. 29 meeting, the board’s Executive and Legislative Committee decided the next step to finding Fry’s replacement should be a review of prior finalists for the position in closed session.

Krueger scheduled a meeting Tuesday that went beyond that procedural step. On the agenda, he included a closed-session interview with a candidate he had contacted prior to the Dec. 29 meeting.

That candidate was an applicant, but not among the list of six finalists the county identified during the prior search.

Private discussion

“Marty had approached me and asked if I would be interested, so I thought about it, talked to some people, and decided I was interested,” said Baraboo City Attorney Alene Kleczek Bolin. “He let me know they’d be interviewing me on Tuesday.”

Kleczek Bolin, who worked for nearly nine years as an attorney in the county’s legal office before she accepted the city job, said Krueger contacted her before Christmas.

After a nearly three-hour closed session discussion Tuesday, the five-person committee reconvened in open session and recommended Kleczek Bolin for the position. The full board will consider her appointment Jan. 17.

Krueger did not return a phone call Wednesday seeking comment, and another committee member said he won’t comment on the process that led to Kleczek Bolin’s selection.

“That was discussed in closed session, and I’m not going to go there,” said Supervisor Dennis Polivka of Spring Green.

The county board authorized a $24,000 contract with an Appleton firm to coordinate the last search, which ended in March with Fry’s appointment. Candidates among the prior list of finalists say no one has reached out to ask if they still are interested.

Daniel Elsass

“I haven’t heard a word about it,” said Daniel Elsass, who works as human resources coordinator and risk manager for the village of Deerfield, Illinois. “Thanks for the update, but no, they did not reach out to me.”

Elsass has more than 14 years of administrative experience, including 20 months as the Baraboo city administrator, according to his resume. He also has worked as a government auditor and a consultant on executive recruitment, compensation plans, and organizational restructuring.

David Nord

“Actually, I have not been contacted by anybody,” said David Nord, who has a master’s in public administration from Northern Illinois University.

The Rockford, Illinois, resident has more than 25 years of experience in local government administration. He also has worked for an economic development arm of village government.

Nord said if someone from the county would contact him, he would be interested in the position.

“I’d be interested in talking about it,” he said.

Art Osten Jr.

“I have not been contacted by Sauk County,” Art Osten Jr. said in an email. He has worked in various local government administrative positions since 1983, according to his resume.

Osten Jr. currently works as an associate with a local government consulting firm out of Oshkosh.

He would not say whether he still is interested in the position, but said he would let the county know if someone were to contact him.

Shawn Murphy

Portage City Administrator Shawn Murphy could not be reached for comment. A city employee said he is on vacation.

Murphy has more than 18 years experience as an administrator with village and city governments.

The two remaining finalists included Fry and former Sauk County Interim Administrative Coordinator Brentt Michalek, who signed a separation agreement with the county in June in which he was paid nearly $25,000 to resign.

That buyout came about three months after Michalek returned to his prior position as a department manager. The county has offered no explanation for the departure, and Michalek’s former oversight committee was not consulted about it.

One member of that committee, Supervisor Connie Lehman of Reedsburg, said she had a conversation with Krueger in which he was aware of negotiations related to Michalek’s separation agreement.

Krueger has said he does not recall the conversation, and had nothing to do with Michalek’s departure.

This article was updated Jan. 5, 2017, to correct the length of time Kleczek Bolin worked for the county's legal office.

Follow Tim Damos on Twitter @timdamos