Asks District Attorney to Prosecute Village of Holmen Officials over Star Hill Sweetheart Deal

FFRF Pursues Open Meetings Violation

(Madison, Wis.) The Freedom From Religion Foundation has asked the La Crosse County District Attorney to prosecute officials of the Village of Holmen who engaged in open meetings violations in selling off part of Star Hill and a cross on it. Actions made during a violation of open meetings law can be invalidated by a district attorney.

A local resident had complained early this year about the unconstitutionality of the Village of Holmen actions in lighting and owning a cross and a star.

The village subsequently sold the small parcel of public land to the Lions Club, although it bid only half ($600) of the Foundation’s offer ($1,200). The Foundation has objected to the appearance of a “sweetheart deal” between the village and the Lions Club. At the time the Foundation made its bid, the Village was ready to sell the plot of land at a nominal rate in a no-bid situation to the Lions Club, which had agreed to maintain and light the cross.

The Foundation first wrote Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen on June 21 asking him to investigate the matter and enjoin the sale. Assistant Attorney General Bruce A. Olsen, in a reply faxed on June 26, referred the Foundation to the district attorney for “the greatest chance of success” in its allegations.

In a June 30 letter to District Attorney Tim Gruenke, Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor requested “prosecution of appropriate officials of the Village of Holmen for violations of the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law.”

“We believe multiple violations of Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law have occurred during deliberations regarding the sale of the Star Hill property by the Village of Holmen to the Holmen Lions Club,” wrote Gaylor.

The Foundation’s detailed, 3-page letter focuses on the March 13 Holmen Board meeting, charging: “The transaction between the Village of Holmen and the Holmen Lions Club was improper under the Wisconsin Meetings Law.” The Board went into closed session, possibly with a representative of the Lions Club representative present, without announcing or describing the purpose, and lacking other specified business requiring a closed session, in violation of Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law. The Minutes report only that there was a “lengthy discussion.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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