An ethics complaint against Hudson Mayor Rich O’Connor, council member Randy Morrissette II, City Attorney Nick Vivian and City Administrator Aaron Reeves was dismissed by the Common Council at a special meeting on Jan. 27.
This is the second ethics complaint filed against members of the council and the city of Hudson in the last two months.
The complaint, filed by Sherie Krisitie, opened by stating at the Dec. 6 council meeting, the mayor, Morrissette, city attorney and administrator violated the code of ethics by obstructing and preventing the council from faithfully and diligently discharging its duties as it pertains to approving poll workers.
Vivian provided the council with an overview of his professional, third-party consultation recommending the complaints against Reeves be dismissed.
Another consulting attorney, Steven Sorenson, provided legal advice on the case, coming to similar conclusions as Vivian.
Vivian did not provide a recommendation on the complaint against himself, rather provided a description of his findings, allowing council members to determine action themselves.
Both the city attorney and city administrator are employees under contract; therefore, different avenues of addressing ethics violations are stipulated.
An investigation would be handled by outside employment counsel and will compare conduct of the city administrator to his agreement as an employee, the employment handbook and Wisconsin employment law.
Vivian noted no specific allegations outlined in the complaint against Reeves or Vivian.
Council member Paul Deziel made a motion to dismiss the complaint against Reeves.
“I just think it’s a real stretch,” he said. “I don’t see evidence. I don’t see facts… I would add that in my time, Aaron Reeves has been a person of high moral standards and ethics.”
After this motion was unanimously approved, 3-0, Deziel motioned to dismiss the complaint against Vivian as well, followed by similar remarks regarding the high moral standards and ethics of the city attorney.
The dismissal was unanimously approved 3-0.
As a client of the city of Hudson and Common Council, Vivian’s role is open to a similar review process as the city administrator’s.
According to Vivian’s memorandum, if the council chose to proceed with the complaint against himself as the city attorney, the investigation would be handled by outside counsel and would compare his conduct against his contract and the code of ethics.
No member on the council voiced discontent with the performance of Reeves or Vivian. Rather quite the opposite.
Prior to discussion of the ethics complaint, council member Sarah Bruch recused herself from the conversation and discussion after acknowledging an unidentified potential conflict of interest.
Council member Joyce Hall recused herself from voting on the dismissal of the complaints against council member Morrissette and Mayor O’Connor. She did participate in discussion, citing her discontent with the lack of civility on the council.
Deziel read a statement previously prepared, using precise verbiage, explaining his vote to dismiss the complaints against colleague Morrissette and the mayor.
The complaint alleges that the mayor acted out of a conflict of interest because John Kraft, who filed a previous complaint against council member Joyce Hall, campaigned for the mayor during the 2020 election cycle and actively dissuaded or prevented discussion of good cause to disallow Kraft the position of poll worker.
Deziel, nor the attorneys who consulted on the case, believed that campaign contributions were subject to conflicts of interest, under the ethics code which prohibits financial and personal interest when voting.
If campaign contributors were to be considered under this part of the code, members of council would require attentiveness to each campaign donor throughout their time on council, Deziel explained as an unattainable standard.
The complaint alleged the mayor “laughed at Hall, belittling her explanation of the basis of her objection of” Kraft, as well as alleging that Morrissette declared Hall’s “objection to be partisan and petty failing to afford her proper respect.”
Deziel did not see the accusation of laughter from the mayor or vocality of Morrissette toward Hall at the Dec. 6 council meeting to meet the stipulations of the ethics code. Further, he sees the ethics code to be in place for major infractions, beyond those stated in this complaint.
The only two votes on the dismissal of the complaint against Morrissette and O’Connor came from council member Bill Alms and Deziel, who both voted in favor of the dismissal.