- Associated Press - Thursday, October 20, 2016

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources said it will no longer host social dinners for board members the night before regular meetings.

The move comes in the wake of a complaint filed over a possible violation of the state’s open meetings law, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported (http://bit.ly/2evFQcG ).

Opponents of a snowmobile trail in Blue Mound State Park alleged the board broke state law when it met for dinner in January and discussed business before voting the next day to approve a new park master plan.

In the complaint placed by attorney Christa Westerberg of Madison, on behalf of former superintendent Karl Heil, the attorney pointed out an email DNR sent noting the agency staff planned to not only attend the dinner but also discuss and answer questions about the snowmobile issue.

The complaint also alleged the board members were briefed prior to the meeting and the dinner evolved into “full-scale lobbying and polling of each board member, resulting in an illegal walking quorum.”

Westerberg said she wanted to hear from the agency about its reasoning for no longer hosting dinners.

“It always is difficult to handle change. But with the assistance of department leadership we will develop other means and programs to enhance communication between board members and senior staff,” stated Board Chairman Terry Hilgenberg of Shawano, in response to the end of the dinners.

DNR spokesman Jim Dick said the board will shelve the longstanding social dinners in “a desire for the utmost transparency.” He said it will also take up the snowmobile issue again. The board will take additional public comment at its monthly meeting in December.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

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