OSHKOSH - After a three-year legal battle, the city must repay special events fees paid by a man whom it called the organizer of the Oshkosh Pub Crawl.
Winnebago County Circuit Judge Scott Woldt dismissed the city's 2015 lawsuit against Joe Kubiak in August. Woldt ordered the city to reimburse Kubiak $2,000 that he paid in an effort to settle a dispute over nearly $11,000 in unpaid special events fees.
"Mr. Kubiak did not organize the event, and therefore he's not liable for the fees associated with the Pub Crawl," Woldt said during an Aug. 23 hearing.
City Manager Mark Rohloff said Wednesday city leaders haven't decided if the city will appeal Woldt's decision.
"We're still trying to evaluate what we’re going to do," Rohloff said.
At issue was whether Kubiak, the registered agent for Oshkosh Pub Crawl LLC, was the organizer of a semi-annual event that brings hundreds of mostly college students to downtown Oshkosh. The city argued that, as the company's registered agent, Kubiak was responsible for applying for a special events permit, which includes covering the costs of extraordinary services such as those of city police, fire and EMS personnel.
Kubiak argued he was not the organizer but rather merely capitalized upon the event by creating and selling T-shirts that bear the name of the pub crawl.
"I'm looking at that, thinking, 'Did the person who came up with the idea and made the T-shirts ... organize that event — the event being the football game?'" Woldt said. "There's no way I could justify saying that that person organized that event."
More recently, the solar eclipse also brought out entrepreneurs with eclipse glasses and other eclipse-related apparel, including T-shirts.
"I have no doubt in my mind that, if Saint Patrick, Ichabod Crane or the New Year's baby actually resided in the city of Oshkosh, that the city would go after them for extraordinary costs for parties on St. Patrick's Day, Halloween and New Year's Eve," Woldt said.
The order comes about seven months after the Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed a 2016 ruling in which Winnebago County Circuit Judge Thomas Gritton called the definition of "organizer" in the city's special events ordinance "unconstitutionally vague." Gritton dismissed the city's civil case against Kubiak and barred the city from filing another lawsuit, without ruling as to whether Kubiak actually organized the event.
The appeals court decision sent the issue back to circuit court to decide whether Kubiak organized the pub crawls and if he must pay the city.
The city claimed Kubiak was the organizer of the Oshkosh Pub Crawl and therefore owed nearly $11,000 for the cost of city police and other services, plus $2,000 in fines after he did not file the necessary paperwork for a special event permit for the semi-annual pub crawl. The claim stems from three pub crawls, two in 2013 and one in 2014.
"I'm happy with the outcome," Kubiak told USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin. "Everything the judge said ... is everything I've been saying all along."
Meanwhile, Kubiak said he remains involved in designing the T-shirts, though he has outsourced the printing portion of the operation.
With the pub crawl's traditional second Saturday in October date coming up, Rohloff said personnel will continue to be out in full force.
"We still have an obligation for public safety," he said. "We'll allocate resources based on our best projection of what the demand might be."
Police Chief Dean Smith said officers focus on two separate areas — daytime activities in the neighborhoods near the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh campus and nighttime activities along North Main Street.
"We partner up with the UWO police and the university and spend time pre-planning," Smith said. "There's not only college kids that live there but grandparents."
Although officers will strictly enforce alcohol-related violations of the law — open containers, underage drinking and public urination, just to name a few — they also will be on hand to help ensure the safety of participants, Smith said
Source - The Oshkosh Northwestern.
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