Wauwatosa Alderman Bobby Pantuso has apologized after posting a photo of himself on social media during a common council meeting April 21, and adding several comments suggesting he had stopped paying attention to the meeting.
Pantuso said he posted the photo during a break in the meeting and added the comments after the meeting. He said they were not meant to be taken seriously.
“I was having a little fun at the expense of the boring meeting,” Pantuso said.
After the meeting, someone shared the posts with radio host Mark Belling. Pantuso said the quoted comments were accurate. They included:
“I need a hip flask in my pocket.”
“I’m not really sure what we are talking about right now.”
“I may have just voted to order a pizza.”
“If I had a gun I would fire it in the air right now.”
“None of us is as dumb as all of us.”
“I think we may have just passed something.”
Wauwatosa resident Judy Randall, who noticed Pantuso on his phone during the meeting, said she did not contact Belling but called the city attorney to inquire about the rules for aldermen using their phones during meetings. She said she worried about who might be contacting them with comments on issues on the agenda.
“I think it was extremely immature of him, and if people want to have credibility in their decisions then they have to be credible in their actions,” Randall said. “He is representing people in an official capacity.”
City Attorney Alan Kesner said the city does not have any rules restricting the use of phones by public officials during meetings, except for the state requirement that officials cannot communicate with each other electronically during a meeting.
“Elected officials are subject to the electorate as far as what happens with that,” Kesner said.
At the following common council meeting May 5, Pantuso introduced a proposal to reduce the size of the common council, with one of his reasons being the length of the meetings with 16 aldermen. He pulled the proposal before it made it to committee for discussion. Pantuso said his decision to pull the proposal was unrelated to the concerns about his social media posts.
Pantuso said he took down his posts and made some apologies to constituents and other aldermen.
“This was both immature, inappropriate and beneath me,” Pantuso wrote in an email to the common council. “It was also dishonorable and disrespectful to my office and all of you as my colleagues.”
Pantuso said he’ll now be staying off his phone during meetings.
“While I feel I was fully engaged in the conversation fiddling on my phone is a nervous habit I intent to break by not bringing my phone with me to council anymore,” Pantuso wrote.
As a “self-inflicted penance,” Pantuso said he would donate his April aldermanic salary ($350) to the Hunger Task Force.