Residents quarrel over right to record meeting
By Brandi Makuski
Residents in Dewey got a little more than they bargained for on Oct. 14, when Chairman Dennis Hintz had to call the police on two residents at the monthly meeting of the Town Board.
Hintz called 911 shortly after 7 PM when Dennis Meis, 52, and Bob Fenske, 64, got into an argument over whether Meis, a former town supervisor in Dewey, could legally record the audio of the town’s meeting on a personal recording device. Witnesses at the meeting claim Fenske picked up Meis’ recorder, left the building and threw it on the ground. Meis soon followed and the two men argued outside.
The incident allegedly was sparked by Meis disclosing that he was recording the meeting.
Chief Deputy Dan Kontos said three deputies responded to the town hall, located at 430 Dewey Drive. According to the deputy’s notes, Hintz told Portage Co. dispatchers he worried the altercation would turn physical.
Meis told deputies Fenske pushed him during the argument, which Fenske denied. Meis declined to press charges provided Fenske did not return to the meeting, which Fenske agreed to. Deputies warned Fenske he would be cited for disorderly conduct if he created any future disturbances.
Fenske told deputies he did not believe Meis had the right to record the board meeting.
Wisconsin law does grant citizens the right to tape record or videotape open session meetings so long as it does not disrupt the meeting.
Dewey has a history of heated disagreements during town meetings, to include a 2013 dispute when Fenske accused Meis, then a town supervisor, of ignoring the results of a referendum question regarding town spending on a new fire truck and town hall remodel.
Earlier this year, Meis accused the newly-elected board members of violating state law by attempting to hire a town employee without due process and of holding a board quorum without publicly noticing the meeting.
A call to town chairman Dennis Hintz was not immediately returned.