RHINELANDER - Rhinelander city employees didn't get a vote when the City Council selected Daniel Guild as its next administrator late last summer.
This week, a handful of employees wanted to make sure the city council and public know they're concerned about Guild "paralyzing" city operations and creating a negative work environment.
Led by Public Works Director Tim Kingman, five employees signed a declaration of no confidence in Guild. The letter was presented to Guild and the Council on Monday night.
"Our signatures on this document have not come easily or lightly," the letter states. "Although we observe current operations are often being conducted under an atmosphere of intimidation and the fear of retribution, we remain steadfast to speak to a best understanding and benefit of the City."
City Clerk Val Foley, Deputy Clerk Mary Stoll, Utility Billing Clerk Beth Mannikko, and Guild's own assistant Stephanie Rajnicek also signed the letter. (Read the letter and Kingman's public comment notes on the PDF file attached to this story.)
The declaration claims Guild has "failed to lead" the city appropriately. It cited canceled meetings and Guild failing to show up for some appointments altogether. The letter also says Guild is rarely in his office, doesn't respond to emails, and only communicates through text messages.
Newswatch 12 learned late Wednesday afternoon that Mayor Chris Frederickson told employees Guild would be on vacation for a week. Guild's voicemail confirmed his absence.
"I will be out of the office and not returning calls until Monday, March 25," Guild recorded in his voicemail. "If you have any questions, you're welcome to email me here at the city."
An email message to Guild on Tuesday night and a voicemail the next day both went unanswered as of 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Guild faced an indefinite suspension after Alderwoman Dawn Rog made a motion following Kingman's presentation. Alderman Tom Kelly seconded Rog's motion to bring it to a vote.
The Council voted 4-4, which led Mayor Chris Frederickson to break the tie with a 'no' vote.
Council President George Kirby and alderpersons Rog, Kelly, and Lee Emmer voted in favor of suspending Guild, while Ryan Rossing, Andrew Larson, David Holt, and Steve Sauer voted against it.
According to notes from the city attorney provided to Newswatch 12 by Foley, the suspension would have been with pay. Foley told Newswatch 12 she recused herself from a closed session portion of the meeting in addition to the vote itself due to her involvement in the declaration of no confidence.
Prior to submitting the letter, Kingman told the Council he expects "other criminal type actions forthcoming" against Guild, having mentioned "over 30 active open records requests, an alleged walking quorum under investigation."
Kingman also said Guild uses "intimidation and retaliation as fundamental resources... to achieve Administrative objectives."
The public works director fears he and City Attorney Carrie Miljevich might fall victim to Guild's "political hit jobs", but Kingman added he "Will continue to [speak out] as I am required."
Kingman turned down an interview request Wednesday, saying the letter "speaks for itself."
Newswatch 12 spoke briefly on the phone with Mayor Chris Frederickson on the matter Tuesday afternoon. Frederickson declined an immediate interview, saying he needed "some time," but couldn't promise an interview any time this week.
Guild has faced criticism from long-serving council members in the months since he was hired in Sept. 2018.
Kirby walked out of a council meeting in January when he grew upset with Guild for not including purchases the administrator made for his office, totaling around $13,000. The two held a joint press conference the next week, pledging to work together
to move the city forward.
However, the next week Rog scolded Guild
and Frederickson for not being open and upfront with the purchases.
Guild came to Rhinelander after spending six years as Weston's Village Administrator. There, he was suspended for 30 days without pay before taking the job in the Northwoods.