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Lake Geneva aldermen ditch meeting again

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Kayla Bunge
August 12, 2009
— The Lake Geneva City Council again couldn't raise a quorum Tuesday afternoon.

"This is an embarrassing day for the city of Lake Geneva," Mayor Bill Chesen said at the meeting. "We have two aldermen who have willfully and intentionally avoided coming to two meetings. It was done with the intent, I think, to perform a fraud on this community."


After falling short of a quorum Monday night, the meeting again was called at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday to appoint a replacement for 1st District Alderman Gary Dunham, who resigned Friday.


Aldermen Mary Jo Fesenmaier, Penny Roehrer and Tom Spellman were absent from the special meeting Tuesday. Roehrer and Fesenmaier were excused. Spellman was not excused.


The same three aldermen were absent from the meeting Monday. Fesenmaier and Roehrer were excused. Spellman was not excused.


Roehrer and Spellman were summoned to appear at the meeting Tuesday. A police officer served Roehrer at her home, and the city administrator talked to Spellman on the phone.


Chesen believes their absence was part of an effort orchestrated to ensure the candidate of their preference is appointed to fill the vacant seat.


Chesen said the aldermen have been party to "back-door deals" to change the makeup of city government. He believes former mayor Spyro "Speedo" Condos, who has expressed interest in the vacant seat, is behind the effort.


"I'm ashamed of them," he said at the meeting Tuesday. "I'm ashamed of this council."


City Clerk Diana Dykstra said after the meeting she received an e-mail from Roehrer saying she had an emergency meeting in Chicago and wouldn't be at the special meeting Tuesday.


Dykstra received no excuse from Spellman, either before or after the meeting.


But Spellman told the Gazette he told the city administrator he would be out of town and wouldn't be at the special meeting Tuesday.


"I'm perplexed by the comments," he said in a message.


City ordinance does not provide for a penalty for unexcused absences from city meetings, but City Attorney Dan Draper said the aldermen could face sanctions. The aldermen could be removed from office or censured, he said.


"Do I think this amounts to that? I don't have all the facts to indicate that," he said. "There's a lot of hearsay out there about what's going on. I have to assess the situation.


"Aldermen are elected to do a duty, and I would certainly hope that they are not manipulating the system for their own political advantage rather than taking care of the needs of the city," he said.


Any action against the aldermen would have to be approved by the city council.


Chesen said he does not plan to pursue sanctions against the aldermen but does plan to file a complaint with the Walworth County District Attorney's Office alleging some aldermen have held illegal meetings and walking quorums.


"This is ridiculous," he said.


Chesen also would like to have a special election to fill Dunham's seat vacated.


The city council next is scheduled to meet Monday, Aug. 24.



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