The husband of a former Milton City Council member has filed an ethics complaint against Mayor Anissa Welch for participating in a meeting where the council nixed a mayoral primary election.
David Lader, husband of Nancy Lader, filed a complaint Friday against the mayor based on her actions at a special council meeting Jan. 3, where the council voted against holding a spring primary in the April mayoral race, according to documents obtained by The Gazette.
David believes Welch should have recused herself from the meeting because her candidacy presented a conflict of interest, according to documents.
Welch led the Jan. 3 meeting but did not vote. The mayor only votes to break a tie, according to city ordinance.
City ordinance dictates that all ethics complaints first be reviewed by the city’s attorney, police chief and city administrator. If those three people determine the facts indicate an ethics violation, the complaint will be sent to the city’s ethics commission for discussion and action, City Administrator Al Hulick said Tuesday.
Hulick said he will meet with Police Chief Scott Marquardt and attorney Mark Schroeder on Thursday to discuss the complaint.
He declined to comment on whether he or city officials believe Welch violated the code of ethics.
The complaint includes emails to David from a staff member of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission and a member of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council.
David Buerger of the state’s ethics commission said he could not definitively say whether Welch complied with the code of ethics because the commission does not weigh in on an official’s past conduct unless a complaint is filed with the commission.
Bill Lueders of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council agreed Welch had a conflict of interest, but Lueders thought he lacked expertise to say what action should be taken.
Nancy spoke during the public comment period at the Jan. 3 meeting, saying the city should hold a primary because a race with three candidates will produce a three-way split vote. A primary would eliminate one candidate and lead to clearer results April 2.
Her husband spoke at the Feb. 5 council meeting, reiterating that the city should hold a primary, according to meeting minutes.
David Lader said the council’s decision to forgo a primary could benefit the mayor in her race, which is why Welch should have recused herself.
Welch is running against Loren Lippincott and Daniel Loofboro in the spring election April 2.
In an interview, Welch said she did not say anything during the meeting that swayed the council’s vote, and she stuck to giving factual information when appropriate. She said she does not believe her actions were unethical.
Welch believes if the council had voted with the Laders, they would not have filed an ethics complaint.
Nancy did not voice support for primaries while on the city council, Welch said, which leads her to believe the complaint is personal.
Minutes from the Jan. 6, 2015, council meeting show Nancy Lader seconded a motion to not hold a primary election that spring and voted in favor of the motion.
Welch faced Tom Chesmore and incumbent Brett Frazier for the mayoral seat, which she won.
David Lader said he did not know why his wife voted against holding a primary in 2015. He said if he were voting then, he would have supported a primary.
Nancy and Welch have history. In 2016, Nancy sued Welch and the council for an alleged open meetings violation. That suit was filed after the city filed an ethics complaint against Nancy for illegally disclosing information from a closed session to the public, according to a previous Gazette story. The city, Welch and Nancy settled out of court.
David Lader said past tension between his wife and Welch influenced his decision to file the complaint, but he said his complaint is more about ensuring government is run properly than personal differences. He said his wife is not involved in the current complaint.
Welch said she does not harbor ill feelings about the Laders, but she thinks they do toward her.