We Stand By Brad Karger Marathon County Administrator
This petition had 2,633 supporters
STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF PETITION
TO RECONSIDER AND REPEAL
DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR
Petitioners seek the immediate reversal of the suspension and other disciplinary action taken by the Marathon County Board of Supervisors against Marathon County Administrator Brad Karger.
For his participation in a peaceful rally and march on May 31, 2016, Mr. Karger will be suspended without pay for 30 days and he will be required to not only make a public statement, but also submit a plan of action to mend the County’s relationship with local law enforcement agencies. It is important to note at the outset that Mr. Karger participated in this event on his own personal time, he did not claim to represent the County, he violated no laws and there have been no public reports that his conduct violated any employment policies he was required to observe. He was simply exercising his right to freedom of speech, protected for all Americans under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The County Board debated its action against Mr. Karger in a session that was closed to the public. However, the justifications later cited in public for his suspension show a serious misunderstanding of the underlying events.
Some members of the County Board have called this a “Hmong March” (Daily Herald). Let us be clear: the march was called, “Save our Children Peace March.” The march was meant to promote peace, the safety of all children, reflection, and healing in the entire community. Attempts to marginalize specific groups will not help the people of Wausau move forward together.
In addition, some are claiming that the rally was anti-police, and that Mr. Karger’s participation was unbecoming of a leader in the community. Organizers of the march have stated repeatedly that an “anti-police” message was never a purpose of the event. No one has claimed that Mr. Karger made statements critical of the police. Note that the Wausau Daily Herald reported that as Mr. Karger passed law enforcement during the march, he thanked them for their service and for keeping everyone safe. The message of this march was that the status quo is inequitable and that large-scale, systemic changes need to occur in order to overcome this. To suggest that the event was anti-police speaks volumes about the Board’s gross misunderstanding about systems of oppression versus individual culpability.
It is our understanding that some County Board members complained that because of Mr. Karger’s professional attire and the way in which he was introduced at the rally, they felt that he willingly misrepresented himself and the County Board when he addressed the participants of the event. That’s just silly. Mr. Karger was not the only individual in professional attire, and he was not the only community leader in attendance. He did not lose his First Amendment right to free speech when he became County Administrator. He did not claim to be speaking on behalf of the County.
Some County Board members cited concerns about alleged KKK imagery and alleged nooses at the rally. Such statements are ignorant and highly offensive.
The image that the County Board is referring to actually symbolizes the unity of Hmong Christians and Hmong Shamanism coming together for peace. The alleged “nooses” are made up of Joss paper, which is used by many Asian cultures, including the Hmong in religious ceremonies in the Shamanist practices. It was not formed into a noose. In fact, it was formed into a chain of intertwining braids to hold sheets of joss paper. If you don’t know what it is, ask before you condemn it. To equate a religious symbol of “coming together for peace” with a violent hate organization such as the KKK is the height of ironic ignorance.
Some say that they would find it hard to work with the County because of Mr. Karger's participation in the march and his statements at the march. While actions have consequences, so does inaction - inaction on the part of the county and city leaders for not more proactively addressing the underlying issues of bullying, the inequitable justice system, and inequitable education system before they resulted in losing the life of one child and throwing away the life of another.
The County Board is requiring Mr. Karger to craft an action plan for renewing the county’s dialogue with local law enforcement officials. However, the County Board and local law enforcement officials need to make a plan for mending broken relationships with Marathon County community members. There is greater distance between the officials and the people that they are supposed to represent because of their decisions to punish Mr. Karger. The Marathon County Board’s decision speaks to a larger issue that—whether intentional or not—the safety and security of members in our communities are not prioritized.
Mr. Karger had an exemplary evaluation earlier this year and has never been reprimanded. He has been serving Marathon County since 1988. His intentions for the community support unity and should be applauded. County Board members represent the citizens of Marathon County. The supporters of this Petition are Marathon County voters who feel that the County Board’s action does not represent them and their values, and that suspending Brad Karger was wrong. They respectfully submit this petition demanding that the decision to suspend Mr. Karger be overturned:
MARATHON COUNTY WISCONSIN – TO THE MARATHON COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
PETITION TO RECONSIDER AND REPEAL
DISCLIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST COUNTY ADMINSTRATOR
WHEREAS, the Marathon County Board of Supervisors voted on July 19, 2016 to suspend Marathon County Administrator Brad Karger’s employment for 30 days without pay and require him to develop a plan to mend relationships with local law enforcement (the “suspension” action);
AND, WHEREAS that suspension action was in reaction to Mr. Karger’s participation at a march referred to as the “Save Our Children Peace March” on May 31, 2016, that included speaking at the march at the 400 block in Wausau, Wisconsin and a march from that location to the Marathon County Courthouse at the 500 Forest Street in Wausau, Wisconsin;
AND, WHEREAS Mr. Karger’s participation at the march constituted the exercise of his right to freedom of speech and protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and to our knowledge it occurred on his own personal time and not during his hours of employment, it did not involve any unlawful activity, and it did not violate any established employment policies relating to off duty conduct that Mr. Karger was subject to;
AND, WHEREAS we believe the disciplinary action taken against Mr. Karger constituted action by our local government to suppress Mr. Karger’s constitutional right to freedom of speech based upon the government’s disagreement with its content, which action threatens the right of all citizens;
WE THE UNDERSIGNED CITIZENS OF MARATHON COUNTY, WISCONSIN, AND OTHER CONCERNED CITIZENS THROUGHOUT THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA RESPECTFULLY PETITION the Marathon County Board of Supervisors to reconsider and repeal its July 19, 2016 suspension action, and to restore Brad Krager’s employment status as if that suspension action had not been adopted.
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