Lake Geneva City Council remains divided
LAKE GENEVA The mayor and the two council members he suspended and then reinstated don't agree on much but do agree getting past the history between them is going to be difficult.
Mayor Bill Chesen said the city council probably would remain divided.
"I believe on the non-political issues the council will be able to move forward," he said. "… But on the political issues, there will be a continued fight."
Council members Arleen Krohn and Penny Roehrer said the council probably would be slow to get back on its feet.
"My hope is the city can (move on), but honestly, I don't think it's going to be soon," Roehrer said.
The city council Wednesday met for the first time in almost a month and approved Larry Magee and Sturges Taggart as replacements for still-suspended council members Mary Jo Fesenmaier and Tom Spellman, respectively.
The council was split, 3-3, on approving both appointments. The mayor broke the ties, voting in favor of the appointments.
Alderman Spyro "Speedo" Condos asked if Magee and Taggart could serve on the city council if they already serve on city commissions. City Attorney Dan Draper said there likely is not a conflict, but he said he would double check.
Chesen said the newly appointed council members have agreed to serve for no more than 90 days and to not run for the seat if and when a special election is held in November.
Charges brought by the mayor against Krohn and Roehrer remain, even though they've been reinstated. Charges also remain against Fesenmaier and Spellman, who still are suspended.
Roehrer, who seemed to speak on behalf of the four, offered to drop the lawsuit they filed against the city if Chesen drops his charges against them and reinstates Fesenmaier and Spellman.
"(Let's) get on with the city's business with the council that was elected … and let the recalls or elections in April be as they may … otherwise, it's going to be a long drawn-out thing," she said.
Alderman Frank Marsala agreed that paying tens of thousands of dollars to attorneys is not something the city wants to do. But charges have been filed and they should be heard, he said.
"I don't think it's proper for this council … to close its eyes. It's like saying the violations didn't happen," he said. "We can't close our eyes to it for the sake of not spending the money."
Chesen said after the meeting he "almost laughed" at the suggestion of dropping the lawsuit in exchange for dropping the charges.
He said he previously has offered to remove the charges against the four council members and reinstate them if Condos would step down and allow for a special election for that seat. Condos rejected that offer, Chesen said.
He said he also has offered to resign himself and to drop the charges against the four council members if Condos would step down. Condos rejected that offer, too, Chesen said.
The mayor maintains that the violations of which the council members are accused are so serious that he will not drop them.
Krohn said she is "leery" of what could happen now that the city council has been restored to eight members.
She said if and when the council holds a hearing on the charges against the four council members, the two newly appointed council members chosen by the mayor likely would vote to remove the four from office.
"We're already proven guilty," Krohn said. "It's not fair."
CITY COUNCIL TIMELINE
Aug. 7: Alderman Gary Dunham resigns.
Aug. 10: A meeting to appoint a replacement for Dunham is canceled for lack of a quorum. Council members Mary Jo Fesenmaier and Penny Roehrer are excused from the meeting. Alderman Tom Spellman is not excused. A special meeting is scheduled for the next day, and the aldermen are summoned to appear at the special meeting.
Aug. 11: A special meeting to appoint a replacement for Dunham is canceled for lack of a quorum. Fesenmaier and Roehrer again are excused from the meeting. Spellman again is not excused. Mayor Bill Chesen believes their absences are part of an effort to ensure former mayor Spyro "Speedo"Condos is appointed to the city council.
Aug. 24: The city council votes, 4-2, to appoint Condos to fill the vacant seat. Fesenmaier, Roehrer and Spellman, along with Alderman Arleen Krohn, vote in favor of the appointment. The council defeats, 4-3, a resolution to hold a special election to fill the seat.
Sept. 9: Three people file paperwork to take out recall petitions against Roehrer, Spellman and Condos. Bea Dale, a former mayor who helped successfully recall Condos when he was mayor in 2001, is leading the recall effort.
Sept. 10: Chesen files petitions to remove Fesenmaier, Krohn, Roehrer and Spellman from office. He also immediately suspends the aldermen, barring them from secure areas of City Hall and requiring them to relinquish their keys to City Hall offices. He accuses them of misconduct and violating the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law. He accuses Roehrer and Spellman also of neglecting their duties.
Sept. 14: Fesenmaier, Krohn, Roehrer and Spellman ask a Walworth County judge for an injunction to block Chesen from appointing temporary replacements. Judge John Race declines to act without a formal hearing including both parties.
A special meeting to appoint temporary replacements for the suspended council members is adjourned after the city council fails to raise a quorum. A regular finance committee and city council meeting are canceled.
Sept. 15: An attorney for the four council members files a modified motion seeking reinstatement of the council members and blocking the mayor from appointing replacements. A hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Sept. 22.
Sept. 21: Chesen reinstates Krohn and Roehrer.
A special meeting to appoint replacements for Fesenmaier and Spellman, who remain suspended, is adjourned after the city council fails to raise a quorum. Neither Krohn nor Roehrer is at the meeting.
The attorney for the four council members asks that the court hearing scheduled for Sept. 22 be canceled after learning of the reinstatements.
Sept. 23: Larry Magee and Sturges Taggart are appointed to replace Fesenmaier and Spellman.