Mayor Bob McManus Stated “City IT Wiped The Phone”
On August 12, 2020, Detective Sgt Jason Meidl was assigned an investigation regarding possible misconduct in public office relating to an open records violation by the Mayor of the City of Marshfield, Bob McManus. (Public officials are legally required to keep these records.)
According to the criminal complaint, on June 15, Barg hand-delivered a letter titled “Notification of Public Records Request” to McManus. The letter informed him of the request and that he had the ability to request a court order to prevent access and/or deny certain requested records.Barg told the detective that McManus had no issues and would not be seeking to obtain a court order against the open records request.
McManus had previously been reprimanded for using a personal email to conduct city business.
According to the report, in March and April of 2020 Barg advised McManus in writing that all employees are “required by city policy to maintain these records, subject to review by management” and therefore “Bob knew then that he would be responsible for maintaining his text messages.”
On August 6, Barg informed Det. Sgt Meidl that he received a phone call while at home from McManus. Barg told the detective that the conversation was regarding an article by OnFocus, which is [a] local news sources in the Marshfield Area. During the conversation McManus informed Barg that the City would have all the requested records. Barg informed McManus that the City only has his emails.
Barg stated that on August 7th, he reviewed an email from McManus which read: “The City of Marshfield has my e-mail records from my City e-mail, my phone records from my direct line, and my cell phone is a City issued cell phone, and is also my knowledge, the record holder of my Mayor Bob McManus Facebook page which all documents are recorded is my understanding. My expectations and understanding has been, that the City of Marshfield has kept all records and should be able to issue items requested for any such request.”
The Director of IT confirmed McManus’ statement that the City is the record holder of Mayor Bob McManus Facebook page is false and that the City has never had access to the page, even though the Mayor has used the page for official business.
Later in the day on August 7th, Barg stated that he had phone conversation with McManus. In the conversation he asked McManus again if he could provide the records of the text messages. The report from Portage County Sheriff’s indicated that according to Barg, McManus stated he was unable to get the messages. He further stated that he brought his phone to Matt [Sutton] who works in the IT office of the City of Marshfield to be looked at. McManus said that in order for Sutton to resolve the issue he “had to wipe the phone clean and do a total reboot.”
Randy Gershman, President of the Police and Fire Commission, said, “It’s troubling to learn that after the records request was given to the Mayor, he accused City staff of wiping the records.”
Per the report, Sutton joined the investigative interview with Det. Stg Meidl and Barg. Sutton stated he assisted McManus with creating and organizing his City of Marshfield email account. When asked if he had reset McManus’ phone he stated, “No.” He further explained to the investigations officer that phones are only reset when they are turned in and redistributed to a different employe, adding “it was a fact” that he had never reset McManus’ city-owned cell phone.
“It is troubling to hear that the mayor hasn’t been transparent and cooperative in the investigation process,”said Alderman Ken Bargender. “As elected officials we have to be honest and forthcoming if we expect the trust of the people.”
“It’s disheartening to learn from the police report that the mayor brought staff into this situation and questioned their integrity,”added Alderman Adam Fischer. “It seems very disingenuous as he praises them publicly often.”
On September 22, IT Director Eng Ng provided a copy of McManus’ text messages. In reviewing the documents, the investigations officer determined that no messages were recovered prior to July 22, 2020.
Gershman stated that he “knew McManus had been in text communication with members of the Police Department” concerning issues with a fit-for-duty physical test. McManus failed to provide any text messages relating to the open records request, and according to Gershman, McManus lied to the city administrator Barg and city attorney Harold Wolfgram when he stated that no text messages existed.
City IT was able to recover messages between Police Chief Rick Gramza and McManus, with the message content revolving only around city business. The IT director also determined McManus’ phone had not been reset as McManus had claimed, but that messages prior to July 22, 2020 were missing.
“It appears from the record that we have in front of us that there were messages deleted and that is very, very troubling,” said Alderman Ed Wagner.
The City of Marshfield has been able to determine that McManus sent and/or received 573 total messages. The City has also been able to recover messages from employees who were in communications with McManus. Those records have been requested and will be made available to OnFocus.
If found guilty, McManus could be subject to punishment. According to state statue 946.12, any public officer or public employee who intentionally fails or refuses to perform a known mandatory duty of their office is subject to charges for Misconduct in Public Office, a Class I Felony – such as concealing records that were requested as part of an open records request. McManus has retained an attorney.
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