Special Rhinelander council meeting called; city attorney ousted
By Eileen Persike
Rhinelander city attorney Carrie Miljevich was given a 60-day termination notice at a special common council meeting April 2.
The first item on the brief agenda was to review the city ordinances and current agreement regarding the city attorney.
When asked, Miljevich said she had no questions, adding, “But I’m not sure why we’re here.”
Per city ordinance, the office of city attorney is appointed by the mayor, subject to confirmation by the city council. The attorney’s term is indefinite, and can be terminated without cause with a 60-day notice and a majority vote by the common council.
Before going into closed session to consider “legal issues and options” regarding Miljevich’s contract, alderperson Dawn Rog stated that the city attorney would need to be present at that closed meeting. Mayor Chris Frederickson replied that the city had additional counsel at the meeting, stating that James Macy from the law firm Von Briesen and Roper was assisting him with the investigation into the recent letter of no confidence signed by several city employees.
Rog and alderman George Kirby questioned the legitimacy of additional counsel.
“No one approved you going out and looking for outside counsel,” Kirby said.
Macy stated the firm’s “ongoing relationship” with the city and a previously signed agreement was sufficient council approval.
The council returned from closed session after about 30 minutes.
“I feel that I am being targeted and I have no idea why,” Miljevich said on the record before the council voted to decide her fate. “Maybe it’s my gender. Maybe it’s because I’ve told the mayor ‘no.’”
“I also feel this is retaliatory,” Rog said. “First it was Sherrie Belliveau, then it was me, now it’s the city attorney. The mayor has absolutely no interest in having women in the Rhinelander city government.”
Alderman Steve Sauer made the motion to terminate the city attorney’s contract effective in 60 days. The vote was along familiar lines, passing with David Holt, Ryan Rossing, Sauer, Andrew Larson and Frederickson voting in favor and Rog, Kirby, Lee Emmer and Tom Kelly voting against.
Miljevich, city attorney since 2013, said after the meeting that the first four-and-a-half years on the job were “great,” but the last year has been challenging.
“The termination of my contract is not coincidental in my opinion,” she said.”Keith Kost wasn’t coincidental, or Sherrie Belliveau. The attempt to remove adversaries, silence critics, or in my case, mine was the only voice that stood up to inconsistencies at city hall, is now being silenced. I have done nothing wrong. I have given sound legal advice over the last five and a half years and quite frankly do not understand why this occurred.”
Frederickson said the termination was initiated because it was time for a change.
“She’s done a good job for the city, but we are looking to move in a different direction,” the mayor said. “We’ve used Von Briesen in the past and will continue [for now].”