After an intensive investigation of the removal of property at the Merrill Festival Grounds by two city of Merrill employees, Merrill Mayor Bill Bialecki issued the following statement Thursday morning:
“The City of Merrill Common Council believes that the actions of City Administrator Dave Johnson and Fire Chief Dave Savone, although not in violation of City Ordinances or policies, were in poor judgment,” Bialecki stated. “They have been advised to follow City ordinances and policies to avoid improper conduct or the appearance of such conduct, as it reflects poorly on City Government.”
Tuesday evening, the city’s Committee of the Whole convened into closed session to discuss results of an investigation conducted by Wausau-based Ruder Ware Law Firm. After nearly two hours of discussion, the committee departed closed session without any sort of announcement or indication of results. However, aldermen did indicate an official announcement would be made.
The investigation stems from a late-July incident, during which City Administrator Dave Johnson reportedly authorized removal of property from the former Schultz Building, at the Merrill Festival Grounds. Merrill Fire Chief Dave Savone was involved in the removal of the property.
Johnson allegedly authorized a private individual from outside the county, to remove items from the building. The items had been stored there by Lincoln County and other entities, prior to the city taking ownership of the grounds from Lincoln County last year. While no documentation or inventory was ever created as to what was stored there, or what exactly was removed, the items reportedly included doors and tables which had originally been brought from the Lincoln County Courthouse.
The property has since been returned.
The Merrill Common Council authorized an investigation of the incident. In mid-August, Kevin J.T. Terry of Ruder Ware was retained by the city to lead a formal investigation into the removal of the property.