County board declines to censure clerk
Marathon Co. official’s Facebook posts scrutinized
Marathon County Clerk Kim Trueblood takes “full responsibility” for social media comments made around July 28 and will not be subject to censure by the county board for violating the county’s core values, according to a statement jointly released on Monday by the clerk and Kurt Gibbs, chairman of the county board’s Executive Committee.
The statement regards two social media posts:
_ Trueblood, the parent of three children, two which are enrolled in Wausau Public Schools, posted a statement in support of Parents for Wausau Schools Reopening and their position opposing virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“School board elections are in the spring,” she wrote to a private Facebook group. “Due to my position, I have to be very careful with what I support publicly, but I can get info and do anything behind the scenes.”
_ The clerk told the Facebook group that it was county health officer Joan Theuer who provided the Wausau Board of Education with COVID-19 information.
Trueblood posted: “She quotes CDC stuff like it’s the Bible. Flood her with emails. Like [a Facebook group member} said — facts, facts, facts.”
The joint statement says that an investigation into the posts concludes that the comments do not rise to the level of misconduct in office or a violation of the State Ethics Code, but they could be a violation of the county’s core value (“service, quality, integrity, shared purpose, diversity and stewardship of resources.”) The statement, however, says that such a censure would have “no practical value” and could damage the county’s working culture involving Trueblood, who is running in the Nov. 3 election unopposed for a four-year term. The statement says the county needs to be “sensitive” to Trueblood’s First Amendment rights.
The statement says Trueblood now understands her posts could be interpreted in a way where people could question the integrity of Marathon County elections and could hurt the health department’s ability to carry out its mission during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The statement further says that Trueblood takes “full responsibility” for some members of the public possibly losing faith in county elections. The county’s executive committee, in turn, says that it accepts Trueblood’s explanation that her posts were not intended to “reflect negatively” on the county, but only to help her Facebook group learn how to recall members of the Wausau Board of Education.
The executive committee and Trueblood “pledge to work together going forward to maintain public confidence in the county’s election process and the internal unity of purpose of the diverse departments administering programs within Marathon County government.”