Our View: Oak Creek erred on grant writer

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Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman has grown into her own as mayor of Oak Creek, winning over many of those who criticized her when she was elected a little more than a year ago.

But Rodeman's recent request to be paid as a grant writer -- and the Oak Creek Town Board's decision to support that request -- shows Rodeman still has a lot to learn about being mayor.

We have been critical of Rodeman in the past. We questioned the rapid dismantling of the town's administration and police force, which Rodeman led. We challenged the town's decision shortly after she was elected to reimburse her for a property dispute she had with the former public works director. And we questioned the decision to rehire a treasurer who had walked off the job amid several serious allegations. That treasurer lasted only a few months before quitting.

To be fair, Rodeman has had successes in her tenure as mayor, perhaps more success than many thought she was capable of achieving.

As noted in a recent story on her first year in office, Rodeman hired a certified water and wastewater operator for the town.

She partnered with Soroco Middle School to clean and paint the hockey hut, paint curbs downtown and to build a deck at the Aspen Manor senior apartments. She has rebuilt the police force. And by all accounts, she puts as much time in at Town Hall as any mayor.

And she deserves significant credit for helping secure a $921,000 grant for construction of a new water treatment plant.

But those efforts do not justify the town's decision to pay Rodeman $25 per hour to be the town's official grant writer and build a Web site for the town. Rodeman proposed working 32 hours per month for a total of $800 per month.

Mike Kien was the lone board member voting against the idea. Kien suggested seeking an experienced grant writer for the position.

He is right. If the town desperately needs a grant writer, it should at least post a notice of the opening and review potential job candidates.

The decision to hire Rodeman without posting the job plays into the hands of those critics who argue Rodeman uses her position as mayor for personal gain. "The mayor doesn't look at the whole picture," Bill Norris, a Rout County planning commissioner and Oak Creek resident, said recently. "Her best interests don't always lie with the whole town but with one particular faction or grudge. Neither she nor the board use their power the way they should."

Rodeman began seeking grants for the town as part of her duties as mayor, a role she sought knowing there was no pay attached. It is wrong for her to now seek compensation for doing mayoral work. And it is wrong for the Town Board to approve that compensation.

Maybe Cargo Rodeman is the best grant writer the Town Board can find. Maybe, as Trustee J. Elliot said, "the job will pay for itself." But if Rodeman wants to be a paid grant writer she should step down as mayor.

It is inappropriate for her to do both jobs.

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