Merrill city clerk approves 4 out of 5 recall petitions

Published: May. 24, 2019 at 2:59 PM CDT
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Merrill city clerk Bill Heideman approved 4 out of the 5 recall petitions Friday, after all 5 aldermen being recalled entered challenges earlier this month.

Heideman gave a certificate of insufficiency to the petition for District 1, due to an issue with some signatures being collected prior to the date listed on the petition, which is a violation of state statute. At this time, he tells NewsChannel 7 that he is choosing to accept the placement of the reasons for recall--the issue that lay at the heart of all five challenges from the aldermen.

"The petitioners seemed to have acted based on what they perceived were correct instructions from the WEC," he explained. Because of that, he won't be striking any signatures from the petitions due to the placement.

If the aldermen choose to appeal Heideman's decision, they have ten days to appeal to the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC).

"I fully anticipate that may happen," Heideman told NewsChannel 7.

Heideman said he was in touch with the WEC while making his decision, but noted they didn't make the decision for him.

"I think I have good, solid ground to stand on for my decision; I didn't make it without some prayerful consideration and maybe some tossing and turning, but you know, I feel like I'm on solid ground."

More than 700 people signed onto the recall effort when it launched in March, but the legitimacy of those signatures was called into question when Council president Rob Norton and aldermen Dave Sukow, Paul Russell, Tim Meehean and John VanLieshout, all of whom were the subjects of the recall petitions, submitted challenges. They wrote that since the reasons for recall were listed on the front instead of the back of the petitions, the paperwork violated state statute 9.10(2) in not providing a reason for recall.

Mark Bares, a leader of the recall effort and owner of Les & Jim's Lincoln Lanes, says he talked to the WEC before submitting the paperwork about that very issue. The WEC at that time gave him the go ahead to put the reasons on the back and that people who signed it were shown the reasons, they were good to go.

The recall petition paperwork only provides a single line of space to include a reason, and the group had too many reasons to fit in the space provided.