Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Oshkosh Northwestern: Shining a light on a new shadow government

We've heard about shadow government in Oshkosh for many years. Now, we're hearing about the possible birth of a new shadow government. Ironically enough, some of those who did the loudest complaining about it in the past seem to be part of that new shadow government spoken about in Sunday's Oshkosh Northwestern.

In Jim Fitzhenry's column earlier today he spoke of this new shadow government and named familiar names like Paul Esslinger, Ben Schneider II and Melanie Bloechl. In the online story, he also shared several email exchanges between these folks. It's interesting reading, but not entirely surprising. Some of us have known about these ties for years and some have suspected some puppeteering could be going on. What is surprising is that they communicated by email, knowing those emails were subject to Open Records requests (I bet that will change in the future, though.)

Besides the usual misspellings, grammatical errors and otherwise snarky comments in several of these emails, a few things in particular struck me as interesting:

(1) The fact that Ben Schneider II of our school board seemed to be "advising" Esslinger on what he could say in discussing his removal of Ted Bowen from the city's parks board;

(2) Esslinger asking city manager Mark Rohloff to copy Bloechl along with select council members on a newsletter that was referenced in one email;

(3) Bloechl's apparent inability (or is it a lack of initiative) to find the city manager's email by going to the city's web site or making a phone call to City Hall. Instead, she emailed Esslinger for the email address! It's clear from the Fitzhenry postings that these folks enjoy emailing each other whether the issue is grand or slight, but I would have thought being so "in-the-know" and having served on the Common Council for as long as she did, she would be able to get the city manager's email address without charging someone else with getting it for her. Perhaps I gave her too much credit; and

(4) Esslinger forwarding to Bloechl a copy of Harold Buchholz's email letter to the Common Council two days before the meeting to select a council member to fill Esslinger's vacated council seat took place. Buchholz's email, you may recall, created somewhat of a stir when it first came to light last May, mainly because it was something separate from his application for the position and it seemed to be a little over the top and inappropriate. That, and the fact that there was no discussion to speak of at the council meeting when the appointment was made, nor were there any questions asked of Buchholz (or any other applicant) by any councilors, made many suspect there had been some discussion outside of an open council meeting about his application and possible appointment. Whether there was or wasn't, we will likely never know for sure. We also will likely never know for sure what entitled Bloechl to receive a copy of the Buchholz email prior to all candidates appearing before the council and before Buchholz was subsequently appointed, but it is sure to have tongues wagging. 

I would encourage readers and viewers to check out the Oshkosh Northwestern editorial by Fitzhenry and read the corresponding emails, then make your own determination about our elected officials and the newspaper's forecast for the "new shadow government." Makes you wonder who else might be lurking in the shadows, doesn't it?

UPDATE: There is a new link for the story and emails. It can all now also be found by going here as well as the link posted twice earlier in this piece.


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