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DA office dismisses charge of disorderly conduct against town clerk

A formal accusation of disorderly conduct against the Morrison town clerk was a result of bullying on the part of an overzealous opponent of wind energy, according to the clerk’s lawyer.

The Brown County District Attorney’s office has dismissed a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct against town clerk Colleen Magley, according to a letter from that office to defense lawyer Steven Gillis. But the fact that Magley was charged at all leaves a stain on her reputation that isn’t fair, Gillis said.

Gillis doesn’t blame the DA’s office for filing the charge and, in fact, thanked them for issuing the letter spelling out that the complainant, Morrison resident Jon Morehouse, was at fault, not Magley.

Morehouse was filming a town meeting in April and claimed Magley grabbed his camera in an attempt to stifle his efforts to document government corruption, according to the letter from assistant district attorney Tom Coaty to Gillis.

Coaty cites evidence on Morehouse’s own camera that showed the meeting had ended and Magley was trying to get Morehouse to pack up his camera and leave so that she could close up the town hall.

“It is troubling that Mr. Morehouse continued recording after being asked to stop and recording when there was no further town business being conducted,” Coaty wrote in a letter with the official office letterhead to Gillis.

“The request to stop taping and leave was reasonable and the actions of Ms. Magley were not criminal because those actions were not violent, nor did those same described actions tend or create a disturbance,” Coaty wrote.

Gillis said Magley never grabbed Morehouse’s camera in an effort to stop him from filming. In trying to get Morehouse to leave, she was gesturing and accidently hit his camera, which was on a tripod, and she and Morehouse both grabbed at the camera to stop it from falling, Gillis said.

Gillis said Morehouse’s filming and complaint were an attempt to bully town officials, and he praised the town board for choosing to fund Magley’s legal expenses, which were in the neighborhood of $3,000.

Magley is considering taking civil action, and if she is successful, any proceeds will be used to repay the town treasury, Gillis said.

Morehouse disagreed Friday with Coaty’s and Gillis’ characterization of what happened.

“She was not cleaning up, and the entire town hall was still buzzing and continuing to do things for 15 more minutes,” Morehouse said.

The town chairman indeed left, as Coaty claims, but Morehouse said he never received any verbal instruction from anybody that he was to leave and that Magley simply approached him and grabbed his camera.

“It’s clear on the film that what Coaty documents in his letter is a lie,” Morehouse said. “You know how the good old boys’ network works.”

Morehouse said he didn’t want to comment further because he had not seen official documentation that the case has been dismissed, nor had he seen Gillis’ press release or Coaty’s letter.

Morehouse is a member of the Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy organization that has been doing battle with companies and governments promoting development of wind turbines in the southern part of the county.