Council committe appointments cause rare stir

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Marcia Nelesen
Tuesday, April 29, 2014

JANESVILLE—One Janesville City Council member Monday accused new president DuWayne Severson of “blatant favoritism and cronyism,” and said Severson handed out plum committee appointments to those council members who supported Severson's run for president.

Council members Jim Farrell and Matt Kealy both voted against the committee assignments meted out by Severson

Severson denied Farrell's accusations.

It is the first time committee assignments caused a stir in at least 16 years.

The council president is charged with appointing members to various city committees, such as the plan commission and alcohol license advisory committee. Some committees are seen to be more important than others.

This year, staff provided council members a matrix so they could list their preferences beginning at “1.”

All council members got at least their first or second request. Some, such as Brian Fitzgerald and Douglas Marklein, got their first, second and third requests.

Fitzgerald nominated Severson for president.

Kealy did not get any of his first three requests. In fact, he was appointed to the audit committee, which meets once a year for possibly a half hour, and the TIF committee, which might not meet at all.

Farrell nominated Matt Kealy as president.

“Blatant favoritism for people who supported him is not in the best interest of the city,” Farrell said.

Farrell in an interview earlier Monday said he should have been appointed to the Janesville Innovation Center Board, which was his first choice. Instead, that went to Fitzgerald. It was Fitzgerald's third choice.

“It is very obvious that some of the appointments were based on who his supporters (are) and who they are not,” Farrell said at the council meeting.

In an earlier interview, Farrell noted Fitzgerald and Severson have similar views on whether to increase the number of Class A liquor licenses, which could be why Fitzgerald is on that committee.

Kealy said in an earlier interview that appointments have always been made with the good of the community in mind, considering a council member's interests and time.

“I do question a little bit what the decision-making in this was,” Kealy said.

Marklein at the meeting said he has a heavy committee load and offered to give his slot on the Downtown Development Alliance to Kealy.

Severson said he appreciated Farrell's and Kealy's comments but didn't agree with their assumptions of how he arrived at the appointments.

In an earlier interview, he said he gave Fitzgerald the appointments to get him more involved. Severson said he knew Fitzgerald wanted the alcohol licensing committee and that Kealy was on it last year.

“I've never been good at trying to identify a person's heart or their intentions, and so, I'm not sure how others do that,” he said at the meeting. He said he would respect how his fellow members feel, however.

Severson said in his defense that he didn't know who voted for him as president because the ballots were secret. In the earlier interview he denied basing his decision on those suspected votes.

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