State/Church Watchdog Asks AG to Investigate, Enjoin Sale of Holmen Star Hill Site

Cites Open Meetings Violations

The Wisconsin Attorney General is being asked to immediately investigate a suspected open meetings violation by the Village of Holmen, Wis., and to enjoin its sale of a parcel of land at the end of June to the Lions Club. A $1,200 bid by the Freedom From Religion Foundation for a parcel of property on Star Hill, circling a huge cross and Christmas star, was rejected by the village in May, in favor of a $600 bid by the Lions Club.

The Foundation had previously accused the village of arranging to sell a small parcel of public land at low cost in a no-bid situation to the Lions Club as a prearranged buyer which had agreed to maintain and light the cross.

In a June 21 letter to Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor requested an “investigation into the legality and propriety of the sale of the Star Hill property,” saying the Foundation believes “multiple violations of Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law may have occurred.”

In a detailed, 3-page letter, the Foundation focused on the March 13 Board meeting, which “has the appearance, at the very least, of impropriety, and perhaps, illegality.” The Board went into closed session, possibly with a representative of the Lions Club present, without announcing or describing the purpose, in violation of Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law. The Minutes report only that there was a “lengthy discussion.”

The Foundation also questions the fact that Board minutes of the May meetings when the decision of who to sell the land to was conducted, do not reflect any public record of any public discussion by the Board or its committees. Yet the Board was entertaining two other substantially higher bids, by groups that had indicated intent to remove the cross and star.

Said Gaylor: “Open government meetings are at the very heart of a democracy. We need some sunlight and transparency over what appears to be a high-handed decision made in utter secrecy.”

Attached: Letter to Van Hollen, Holmen Board Minutes, March 13, 2008

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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