It turns out that the president of the Wauwatosa Common Council, Meagan O’Reilly, made the only recorded complaint on Wauwatosa Christmas colors, according to the results of an open records request filed by Wisconsin Right Now. They could produce no other recorded complaint.
We’ve obtained an email from Deputy City Administrator Melissa Weiss to other city officials, dated December 20, 2022, which reads:
“I have received a concern from the Council President this evening about City Hall being lit red and green for Christmas. For someone who does not celebrate Christmas, this may create a perception of being unwelcome as they approach the building. I am not sure who manages that, but I agree with the concern. We should discuss more before lighting City Hall next year.”
Meagan O’Reilly is a non-profit consultant, according to her city bio page.
O’Reilly has made her political leanings known in the past. At a recent Common Council meeting where alderman shot down a resolution supporting Israel and the aspirations of the Palestinian people, she said, “Personally, and unapologetically, I support a ceasefire.”
She was one of only three aldermen, along with Sean Lowe and Andrew Meindl, who supported banning police no-knock search warrants. She has indicated support for black lives matter. She campaigned for radical US Senate candidate and Democrat Mandela Barnes.
After a deputy city administrator’s email requesting that city workers refrain from using red-and-green Christmas decorations to be more inclusive, the City Administrator, Jim Archambo, wrote in a clarification email that residents had complained. “City leaders as a team decided that this was an appropriate communication based on concerns from residents regarding decorations in public spaces,” he wrote on Deputy City Administrator Melissa Weiss’s original email.
That email suggested city workers decorate counters in public buildings with “snow people” instead of traditional Christmas decorations and colors.
Mayor Dennis McBride wrote in a statement, “I inquired and learned that in years past, some people who have come to City Hall in November and December have complained about religious displays. My understanding is that our administrators are trying to minimize the discomfort that some people feel when they come to a government building for governmental, non-religious functions.”
This all made us wonder who exactly complained. We sent Archambo an email and asked him how many people complained, about what specifically, to whom, when, and who they were. We also filed an open records request asking for any city emails on the topic.
We subsequently received a response from Alan Kesner, the Wauwatosa city attorney. He produced exactly one email on the topic.
“Jim Archambo asked that I review the relevant records and respond to you on his behalf to that portion of your November 15 message which can be considered a records request,” Kesner responded.
“We asked our IT department to search for e-mail messages relevant to your request. The department performed a very broadly-worded search, in order to capture relevant messages, and searched back to the year 2019. I have provided the search parameters below,” he added. “I have been told that there were a number of oral complaints relevant to your inquiry, but there is no record which reflects those complaints.”
Continued Kesner: “The IT department’s search resulted in 378 e-mails, although the vast majority of them were not relevant to your inquiry. These unresponsive search results “consisted of messages which mentioned the key words for other reasons, including a large number of Diggers Hotline responses which included those keywords. Those messages were removed from the results as they were unresponsive. In the end, one e-mail message was located which was responsive to your request. That message is included as a PDF file attached to this message.”
We then responded and asked, “Who made the oral complaints, when and how many were there?”
Eva Ennamorato, the communications manager for the City of Wauwatosa, responded to that question.
“City staff received multiple oral concerns from residents during past holiday seasons, but there is no record which reflects those complaints,” she wrote.