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Attempt to fill Sauk County board seat sparks debate

DeGiovanni appointed to Wenzel’s Prairie du Sac seat, some board members wanted a special election

 

May 9, 2019



After a lengthy discussion at April’s Sauk County Board meeting, supervisors voted to fill a vacant seat.

Dr. John DeGiovanni was approved to take over the seat left empty by William Wenzel, who resigned earlier this year. The seat, District 29, represents Prairie du Sac.

DeGiovanni’s appointment was passed with only one abstention from Supervisor Bryant Hazard.

While critics said they had nothing against DeGiovanni, they did take issue with the way the executive and legislative committee handled the process.

Supervisors Kristin White Eagle and Bryant Hazard were absent and excused from the meeting and thus did not vote on the proposal.

Supervisor Bryan Peper said special elections were held in the past to fill seats and he wondered why the board couldn’t be uniform in how it handles vacancies.

Board Chair Peter Vedro explained that it’s up to the board; it may choose to hold a special election or approve a candidate who has been selected by the executive and legislative committee. In this case, DeGiovanni was the choice to come out of committee. Since there is less than a year left in Wenzel’s term, board supporters decided to forgo the election, especially since there is none this fall and thus a special one would incur costs and perhaps be overlooked by voters.

Supervisor Tim McCumber said he had no qualms with DeGiovanni and was more upset with the committee. He said he heard from two applicants who applied for the position but were never interviewed by the committee.

When a seat is left vacant, the county clerk’s office solicits applications, which are due by a select date. Once paperwork is received, the committee reviews candidates based on experience and qualifications and invites them in for interviews. In the end, the committee forwards one recommendation to the board.

McCumber proposed appointing DeGiovanni but then holding a special election to fill the rest of the term, and that motion was seconded by Supervisor Chuck Spencer. However, the measure failed when put to a vote.

Spencer said, since elections were held in the past, it’s only fair to continue the action when filling seats.

Supervisor Scott Von Asten agreed that it’s not favorable to treat candidates differently. The executive and legislative committee should work on this issue to ensure uniformity.

“We’ve got to get this process cleaned up,” he said.

Not everyone agreed with naysayers. Supervisor John Deitrich called some past elections “an ugly precedent,” especially since politics were concerned in some previous situations. He said he saw no issue with approving DeGiovanni for the seat.

Supervisor Thomas Kriegl said it didn’t make sense to hold a special election because there is no election this fall and there isn’t much time left in the term. Wenzel’s seat is up for re-election in spring of 2020. If the board decided to hold an election this November, turnout could be very low because there’s nothing else on the ballot. Also, only residents in District 29 would vote on the seat, which further takes a bite out of participation. Having only 30 or so people vote wouldn’t solve the problem nor would it likely justify the cost of paying staff for an election.

In the past, it was possible to tack the election on to one that was already scheduled in November but that’s not the case this year, he said.

“Timing has played a role in how this has been done,” he said.

Costs were not entirely certain but they could reach upward of $7,500 or more just for election inspectors, said Supervisor Ross Curry.

Supervisor Wally Czuprynko shared Kriegl’s sentiments, saying he didn’t favor special elections to fill seats in the past, either.

 
 

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