By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — The Lodi School District official who asked police to respond to an orderly school board meeting earlier this month said police presence would make a board member “feel better.”
“We would like to have a Lodi officer up at the district office,” Maureen Palmer, administrative assistance to District Administrator Vince Breunig says in the Nov. 8 911 call to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department. The audio was obtained by Empower Wisconsin.
“He does not have to come lights and sirens, we just want to have him present at our board meeting the way it’s going,” Palmer says.
“Is it becoming disorderly. Do you feel like it might?” the dispatcher asks.
It wasn’t, but it could get disorderly, at least district officials felt like it might, according to Palmer.
“We would just like his presence here, just come and be present for a while,” Palmer added.
By all accounts, the meeting wasn’t disorderly, and it never got that way. Just parents concerned about the district’s stringent mask and quarantine policies expressing their thoughts during the public comment period.
Attorney Brent Eisberner at the request of some of those concerned parents spoke at the Nov. 8 school board meeting. They started a GoFundme account to hire him. Other parents who had signed up to speak “donated” their time to the attorney. He told the board his legal opinion, that the district’s policies were excessive and discriminatory. He told them such policies could lead to a lawsuit.
District residents also were concerned about the board’s plan to change the public comment period, limiting time allowed to speak and prohibiting comment from Individuals form outside the district — like Eisberner.
The board and district educrats didn’t like what they were hearing. So they called 911.
They wanted police presence. They got it.
Dispatch sent an officer out. He stood in the back while the meeting continued. He was very present.
Eisberner said it was all part of the board’s intimidation tactics, and a misuse of law enforcement.
“I think it’s an incredible waste of resources,” the attorney said. “It shows in my mind they didn’t like what was being said at the meeting and wanted an officer standing in the back of the meeting so they could say, ‘Look at what we can do. We can get the force of government to intimidate parents.’”
Palmer made it clear she didn’t want to draw any unnecessary attention, at least until the officer arrived.
“Again, he doesn’t have to come lights and sirens, just come and have his presence here would make a board member feel better,” she told the dispatcher.
Eisberner said he was surprised the dispatcher agreed to send the officer. There was no disorderly behavior by any of the attendees.
Lodi School Board President Adam Steinberg grew upset because Eisberner wasn’t wearing a mask. The attorney then put one on. Steinberg, according to a witness, also was concerned that Eisberner was unmasked while eating a lollipop.
“He went up with the lollipop in his mouth and said he is eating. Therefore, a mask is not required. At this point, I was standing in the doorway and heard the board assistant call the police. Apparently, eating the lollipop was the last straw,” the witness said.
“Nobody was unruly. Everyone was polite. No threats were made. The attorney said he was representing parents. Parents, clearly donated their time to him. There was no reason to be concerned for safety. Yet, they called 911. Not a non-emergency number but 911 over someone escalating a situation to eating a lollipop.”
The board approved the public comment measure, limiting the time allowed to address the board at meetings.
“If the board doesn’t like what you’re talking about they can stop you. That’s not my vision of what public comment is meant for,” Eisberner said.