Empower Wisconsin | Nov. 23, 2019
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Law enforcement officials executed two search warrants at Rhinelander City Hall Thursday morning in a rare raid in the name of Wisconsin’s open records law.
Rhinelander City Administrator Daniel Guild is named as a person of interest in the warrants, obtained by Empower Wisconsin, in an investigation into tampering with public records and misconduct in office.
A city employee told Empower Wisconsin that the city building was closed for part of Thursday morning as the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department and other law enforcement agents seized records. City leaders could not be reached for comment.
Guild is alleged to have “engaged in various acts including failure to release public records in response to a request by the media and law enforcement.” The city administrator also is accused of “altering email content to present it as the original,” according to the warrants filed Friday afternoon in Oneida County Court.
Guild is also accused of asking City Attorney Carrie Miljevich to lie to a reporter and say that the city council did not violate open meetings law. She refused to so so. Guild said it was her job to “protect the city,” according to the warrants.
In April, the council in closed-session narrowly voted to fire the city attorney, an act Miljevich said was done in retaliation because she stood up to Guild and Rhinelander Mayor Chris Frederickson.
Law enforcement officials are also looking into emails between Guild and Jerry Deschane, executive director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, and his deputy, Curt Wityniski as well as other League staff members. Guild, according to documents, sought advice from the League on how he could get rid of Rhinelander City Council President George Kirby.
In January, Kirby incurred the wrath of the city administrator, mayor and other council members when he questioned a $13,000 purchase Guild made for office furnishings, the warrants show.
That’s when Northwoods River News reporter Jamie Taylor sought information through an open records request. The reporter received an email in the request that appeared altered from the original.
The media outlet filed a complaint and law enforcement officials began investigating Guild in March, according to the search warrants. In June, they asked the Oneida County District Attorney’s office to charge Guild with tampering with public records. Instead, the DA brought in a special prosecutor. Earlier this week, a few days before the raid, the DA sent Guild a letter saying he would not be charged.
In another case, Guild is accused of hiding the personnel records of the city’s former public works director, who was fired. Guild publicly admitted that there had been documents missing from the personnel file.
Guild, in a Nov. 11 email to Deshane and the League of Municipalities attorney, notes city officials have “struggled to form” the type of relationships “necessary for good government these past years.” He said there remain “many frayed relationships on the Council.”