An Occasional Attempt
To Restore Civility to Civic Discourse
PRESIDENT AND CEO
June 12, 2017
The decision by Sturgeon Bay hotel developer Robert Papke to pull the plug on his waterfront hotel project creates more questions than it answers. As does his notice of claim demanding $550,000 plus attorney fees from the City of Sturgeon Bay.
The list of questions that need to be answered is long.
First among many;
Should Sturgeon Bay taxpayers be on the hook for the more than half-million dollars Papke is claiming?
Is that money Papke is claiming just the risk an investor incurs when he gets a sweet-heart deal on the purchase price of property, payment terms and added amenities like pilings, aesthetic improvements, parking and snow removal paid for by taxpayers?
What is the responsibility of the Waterfront Redevelopment Authority?
What is the role of former Door County Economic Development Director Bill Chaudoir and former City Administrator Steve McNeill in “throwing rose petals at my feet,” as Papke claims officials did to “lure” him into the investment?
What specific promises were made to Papke that now results in him claiming damages of more than $500,000? By whom were they made?
What did Mayor Thad Birmingham know about the inability to obtain clear title to the property for the hotel development and when did he know it? What did he, or did he not, disclose to Papke as he attempted to get him to develop the waterfront property?
Who misled Papke and “duped” him into parting with his money on this project?
Why, after questions about valid title, public opposition, hundreds of signatures on petitions and hours of outcry at public meetings did city officials, mayor and a council majority continue without researching information raised by Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront and others?
What impact will Papke’s lawsuit have on the ability of the city to attract other developers in the future?
Are there individuals who should not have served and are serving today on the Waterfront Redevelopment Authority because of the appearances of conflicts of interest?
Is it appropriate for the same law firm, Pinkert, to represent Bob Papke and the City of Sturgeon Bay? What impact has that had on the development of this case?
Does this create the proper timing for the city to adopt an ethics policy to protect the public from conflicts of interest, the appearance of conflicts of interests or corruption?
Who will remove the dirt piles on the waterfront and when will it be completed?
These are important questions. Answering them sooner rather than later will restore trust lost in the process that has divided our community. Clearing up questions is an opportunity to unite and move forward, smarter for the experience and wiser for the challenge.
The City of Sturgeon Bay is at a critical point where it can project a much more positive, open, respectfully image in how it treats its citizens. Or it can continue the legacy that has been long-established of acceptance of conflicts of interest, “good old boy” networking at its worst, disrespect for taxpayers and often tone-deaf leadership.
The first step to improving the situation now created in Sturgeon Bay is for the parties involved to answer important questions.
I invite and encourage Mayor Thad Birmingham, Bob Papke, city council members, Waterfront Redevelopment Authority authority members, Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront, former city administrator Steve McNeill, former Door County Economic Development Executive Director Bill Chaudoir, members of the Pinkert Law Firm and anyone who can share clarifying, constructive comment to make this situation better for the taxpayers of Sturgeon Bay….and a lesson learned so it never happens again.
Many are waiting.
That’s my opinion. I’d like to hear yours.