Following a contentious monthly meeting, there have been two resignations related to the Town of Osceola board.
Longtime supervisor Mike Wallis and newly hired clerk Melissa Johnson both announced their resignations Friday August 6.
“Mike Wallis has decided it is time to focus more of his time and energy on family, career and other important people and aspects of his life,” said board chairman Dale Lindh in a written statement to the board.
Wallis has served on the town board for over a decade.
Melissa Johnson had just recently accepted the clerk position and had been appointed during the July 6 meeting. She becomes part of a growing club of clerks to resign in recent years.
Johnson was the fifth person to hold the clerk position since Lorraine Rugroden left in 2019. This does not include individuals who have filled in. Linda Chabot, Tammy Wachina, Kyle Teague and Scott Hildebrand all held the clerk’s job. Jo Everson, Neil Gustafson, Bernie Desmarais and Jan Carlson have each filled in as well.
The spring 2021 election has recently been a point of contention at meetings. There were vote-counting errors made during the election, although the errors did not change the outcome of the election and were discovered and corrected quickly.
Town of Osceola election officials earned praise from the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) for their handling of the election, which featured a large number of write in votes.
“Thank you for reconvening the Municipal Board of Canvassers (MBOC) last Friday. When this type of error occurs. WEC staff usually recommends that the town clerk speak to the municipal attorney to determine the best course of action,” said Jim Witecha, staff attorney for the WEC, in an email to then Town Clerk Scott Hildebrand. “These decisions sometimes vary based on factors such as whether or not the error impacts the election outcome, etc. That said, WEC typically recommends the best approach is to notice a public meeting, reconvene the MBOC, correct the errors and document all steps of the process. It is my understanding that you have already done this, and I commend you for choosing that approach.”
Town resident Cynthia Thorman worked the polls during that election, and spoke to the board during public comment at the August 2 meeting. She urged town residents who were clinging to rumors and misinformation about a corrupt election to instead focus on improving the process in the future.
“Anyone who wishes to extend help rather than gossip is encouraged to be an election worker. We often have a shortage of people,” she said. “To date we have not received one new application.”
Newly elected supervisor Neil Gustafson also addressed the ongoing conflict in a statement at the August 2 meeting.
“I’m only going to say this once, take your B.S. elsewhere,” he said. “I will not invest another moment of my time or support spending another dollar of my neighbor’s tax revenue settling your disputes or dragging up the past.”
He said the issues go well beyond the Spring 2021 election, and that the situation has put undo stress on the board.
“Our town has a serious issue with what has become a modern day Hatfields and McCoys,” Gustafson said. “We have two rival groups that would literally burn the town to the ground and run off every employee and elected official in an effort to satisfy their personal agendas and vendettas.”