Former trustee recalls . . .

The ‘historical’ method Eckman wants used for panel assignments was perverse

SHOREWOOD, Wis. (May 22, 2004) – When Trustee Ellen Eckman asked that assignments to Village Board committees be based on “equity” and how assignments “historically” were handed out, we decided to investigate how the assignments were done in the past.

Eckman’s personal historical perspective stretches back to 2001, when she won the seat vacated by Trustee Paul Erickson, who served from 1998 to 2001 and did not seek re-election.

In recalling the days when he served under Rodney H. Dow’s Village presidency, Erickson said that Dow delayed “committee assignments until the fall because he was mad at me for running against him” (for president in the April 2000 election).

“I should add that it was particularly awkward and caused a lot of confusion,” Erickson continued.  Dow “simply refused to post any assignments from April to September, so that no one really knew who was supposed to do what. When he finally did hand out jobs he did so without consulting either (Former Trustee) Patty (Krieger) or I. In the past trustees were asked to submit confidential requests indicating first, second, and third choices and preferences. Prior to Rod's tenure, if more than one trustee requested the same spot seniority was respected, but everyone got at least one committee of their choice. In my second year Rod cited seniority to block my request to sit on the Police and Fire Commission. In my third year he ignored my seniority to stiff me on all three of my requests.”

At the time, Erickson continued, he did not complain publicly because it was obviously Dow's right to do so.

“I supported his right at the time and I still do. He had just publicly slandered me to win the election and he knew I was not going to be bought off with a committee assignment. With nothing to gain, he chose to indulge his emotions and I think he rather enjoyed stiffing me at the time. Which is why we worked so hard to elect Mark Kohlenberg. We did so to counter Rod's perversion of the committee assignments. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, Rod via Ellen wants to change the rules again. I should add here that every elected body in the country operates under similar rules. From the US senate on down committee assignments are the tool of the president. It is one of the few coercive tools they have to forge working majorities. If Ellen doesn't like being passed over for key positions then maybe she should rethink her knee jerk opposition to everything Mark tries to put forward. Mark would be crazy to give status to someone who is so obviously committed to making his life miserable. [Ellen] doesn't have to agree with him, she just has to stop kicking sand in his face every time he comes around. Or to put it more positively, Mark needs to put together committees that can efficiently do the work because the end result reflects on his leadership. At this point Ellen has shown that she is good at slowing things down and creating controversy, but she has yet to add anything constructive to the board. Ergo she would be the last person you would want on a committee where timely, accurate results are essential.

“Every leader needs both a carrot and a stick. Mark has tried to be charming and to compromise; Ellen made him pay dearly for it. It is disingenuous of her to now complain that he is being ‘mean’ or ‘unfair.’”

Patricia Krieger, another former trustee who first was elected during the presidency of Mike Schulte and continued her tenure when Dow took the office, said in her experience with committee assignments, "wherever you were placed, that's where you where. It was totally up to the president."

"Under Mike Schulte, we'd be asked what committee we wanted. If you were an incumbent, I think we gave a list of our top three choices and we got one of them. But once you were assigned, you kept it."

Krieger said she served on the Budget & Finance Committee -- one of the panels Eckman wants to break up. "But I had a background, I worked in finance before. I had a history of attention to detail," Krieger said.

"I think the president has to assign the people who have the strongest ability. He has to do what he thinks is right."

In a brief telephone interview Saturday, Kohlenberg said, "I'm sure any of the trustees could do a competent job" on the Budget & Finance or Judiciary, Personnel & Licensing (JP&L) committees.

"I asked the trustees to submit a list to [Interim Village Manager] Mr. [James] Bartnicki. I think Ellen asked for Budget & Finance, JP&L and CDA (Community Development Authority)." Kohlenberg said Eckman got one of her three choices -- the CDA assignment, although it is not a standing committee -- and also is on two standing committees, Community & Business Development, of which she is the chair, and Streets & Buildings.

Kohlenberg said Eckman submitted with her list a statement or request that the makeup of the Budget and Judiciary committees be restructured.

But Kohlenberg said he has his own formula for deciding who gets which committee.

"I consider the qualifications, how they would work with other trustees to get the job done and how they interact with the public."

According to other trustees, Eckman's inability to get along with some other Board members and her problem with the failed handbook project may count for more than she is willing to acknowledge.

"She may just be setting herself up to be ridiculed," one trustee said.

That ridicule may be all the more possible with the revelation that Rod Dow was working behind the scenes through Eckman and that former Langenkamp woman to manipulate the Board, setting up Eckman to take the fall while he plays the civil puppeteer.