Location of electors’ meeting sparks debate
By Robert Cloud
More than 200 signatures were collected for a petition seeking to overturn the decision to replace two elected officials with a single employee in Dayton.
At the town’s annual meeting on April 19, residents voted 37-15 to eliminate the offices of town clerk and treasurer.
Judy Suhs is the current town clerk, and Brenda Hewitt is the treasurer.
Jim Peglow spearheaded a petition drive to require Dayton to hold a special meeting of the town electors at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 8.
“The petition needed 10 percent of the number of Dayton citizens who voted in the last governor’s election,” Peglow said.
To require a special meeting, Peglow said 136 valid signatures were needed, and 219 were collected and verified by the town clerk.
“This is not a Judy issue or a Brenda issue,” Peglow said. “This is about what the citizens of Dayton voted for in the last election.”
In the town’s April 2015 election, Suhs was elected over Sue Popham by a vote of 453-401, while Hewitt defeated Thomas Van Veen, 590-247.
Peglow, who lost his bid for re-election in 2015, said the issue of combining the two elected offices into a single appointed position had not been discussed at prior board meetings and few people expected it to come up at the annual meeting of electors.
He believes there will be a larger turnout at the special meeting because Dayton residents will know what issue will be decided at that meeting.
“I was really disheartened after I heard what had happened,” Peglow said. “Less than 40 people made that decision.”
Peglow said he believed every Dayton voter who has an opinion on the issue should attend the special meeting.
“I want the will of the people to be heard, one way of the other,” Peglow said.
Town Chair Dave Armstrong said he supports holding another meeting of the town electors.
“I think this vote will reflect the consensus of the entire town,” Armstrong said. “It’s the democratic process at work.”
Emails between Judy Suhs and Town Chair Dave Armstrong indicate disagreement over the meeting’s location.
When Suhs sent the legal notice that ran in the May 19 Waupaca County Post, she listed the Dayton Town Hall as the site for the special meeting.
Town Supervisor Jane Haasch subsequently listed the Waupaca High School gymnasium as the meeting’s location on the town’s website. She also informed the newspaper that the location needed to be changed in the legal notice.
In a May 23 email to the town board, Suhs noted, “Attached is a copy of the petition. As you can see the petition specifically states the time, date and location of the meeting. I did talk to the those who circulated they do not want the meeting moved. Suggestion was made to clear out the pole building and use that. I understand the website states the meeting has been moved. Please have Jane change that ASAP.”
“Per the statute I sent you last week the board has authority over location. We did not have the opportunity to exercise that authority prior to your posting,” Armstrong said in a reply email to Suhs.
He is referring to Wisconsin Stature 60.12(4)(b): “A special town meeting shall be held where the preceding annual town meeting was held, unless the location is changed by the town board.”
“The reason for our selected location continues to be a strong possibility for a large crowd which the town hall could not handle from a seating or parking standpoint,” Armstrong added.
Armstrong pointed to the precedent when a public meeting regarding the Little Hope dam was held at the high school auditorium in order to accommodate a large crowd.
“Our goal here is very specific: an orderly and well-managed vote,” Armstrong said in his email.
Armstrong told the Waupaca County Post, “It’s tough to run a vote when you have people standing outside the building.”
Suhs, who is on vacation, could not be reached for comment.