Are you entitled to a gravestone free of charge from the city government?

It seems that the Journal Sentinel has at last picked up on a story has been blogged about for some time over on Metro Milwaukee Today. Greg Kowalski at MMT got word that Mr. Ralph Voltner, a longtime St. Francis City Administrator,”wanted to receive two burial plots as a bonus payment.” The JS also found that Mr. Voltner pulled some strings to get the city to deliver “a large granite rock from the city’s public works garage… to his house free of charge; and two burial plots in the city-owned cemetery adjacent to his house.”

While Mr. Voltner called his plan to get graves and a granite gravestone at cost to the city [my emphasis]  “a joke,” to me, that is nothing like a joke. Using taxpayer dollars on that is not a joke. When someone has devoted his life to working for the city, his work should be honored and respected. But arranging for the city to give you a large piece of granite rock and two graves at cost to the city is not funny. It’s a serious violation of public turst.

Unfortunately, these sorts of violations happen more often than one may think. Or it may not surprise you at all, given the sort of bad behavior we’ve seen in the county, state, and federal government. At the same time, I don’t think we except this sort of behavior on the local level, which makes it more shocking. The St. Francis city council tried to sit on records of the action, the Journal Sentinel appears to have gotten their hands on the paperwork through an open records request.

The JS coverage is over here.

Congratulations for your persistence on this matter, Greg. This has been another example of how blogs are positively influencing the mainstream media.

Also: What conditions are permitetd for the St. Francis Common Council to have a closed meeting? Why was the deal to give the gravestone and plots heard in a closed meeting? Is that even legal?


Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.

3 thoughts on “Are you entitled to a gravestone free of charge from the city government?”

  1. Jason,

    Funny thing is, the JS doesn’t even acknowledge any help from the blogosphere. I was pleased to see the St. Francis NOW reporter at least cite a “blogger” to start up the conversation.

    I’ll become more excited when major news outlets, like the JS, become more cooperative with area bloggers. I think then the media will truly become a powerhouse in area news and politics.

  2. Municipalities can go into closed sessions for quite a few reasons…Wis. Stat. 19.85 lists them all; discussion of compensation for public employees is one of the allowable reasons.

  3. Greg, I’m not at all surprised they didn’t mention your previous work on this. Bloggers have long been targets for JS and other media. I think it falls under the “if you don’t understand it, kill it!” thinking. Journal Communications has always been confused about blogs, IMO. Perhaps they make the blogs available through their “[Suburb]NOW” site as a way to try and get leads on stories without paying their staff to do so. It’s horribly skeptical, but it feels right. And after all, in this age of Stephen Colbert, what you feel in your guts is more important than what you know in your head. Truthiness counts!

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