Deck Of Cards Picks Council Pres.; Mayor Paine Vetoes Censure Against Councilor Van Sickle
SUPERIOR, Wis. – It was a heated Superior City Council meeting Tuesday night that included a censure vote and a cutting of the cards to finally pick a council president after three failed votes at past council meetings.
Mayor Paine said his outside legal advice proved that a game of chance can only legally happen with a tie vote.
Councilors have never allowed a tie vote to happen for the president’s seat because one councilor would always abstain.
Councilor Brent Fennessey secured the highest card over Councilor Ruth Ludwig during the draw Tuesday night. He will be president until April.
“The last couple of months have been distracting us as a body, distracting the media from reporting on the good work we are doing. And it’s time to get together as a body, put this behind us and just move forward,” Fennessey said after the meeting.
Councilors Ludwig, Van Sickle, Warren Bender and Tylor Elm were against drawing of the cards.
Meanwhile, Councilor Craig Sutherland brought forward his censure resolution against Councilor Van Sickle after her tweet against City Attorney Prell that called him lazy and incompetent in his report that concluded a deck of cards was legal.
“Prell has a long established reputation of repugnant incompetence. No one of merit would take this seriously. The opinion itself is riddled with manipulated and irrelevant citations and plenty of contradictions and worse, pure laziness,” Van Sickle posted.
“You can disagree with those findings, but the disagreements can come with civility — and that did not happen here at all,” Sutherland said.
“I will not back down, I told the truth, I have no regrets and I am not sorry,” Van Sickle said.
The council voted 6-4 to censure Van Sickle’s comments, with Ludwig, Bender, Elm and Van Sickle against.
But that didn’t last long as Mayor Paine used his first veto as mayor to squash that resolution.
At an earlier news conference Tuesday, Paine called on Van Sickle to withdraw her censure resolution against Councilor Sutherland, which she did.
Van Sickle’s resolution cited Sutherland for “digital stalking,” using vulgar language in official government emails and being intoxicated during a “bar brawl” last year, among other allegations.
Paine added while he does not approve of attacks of city employees and elected officials out in the public arena, he strongly condemns censuring public officials’ First Amendment rights.
“Speech is not a crime. Speech should not — must not — be punished by the government. This is a fundamental principal in our democracy,” Paine said.
And at the council meeting, members of the public called on the council to be better at representing the city of Superior.
Some members of the community weighed in on this topic as well.
“I am very, very disappointed in my city council right now. As a voting member of this community, we did not vote you in to slander each other, to do social media attacks, to talk about each other’s personal lives,” said Kym Young of Superior.
“This is a democracy, it’s not a dictatorship. I implore all of you to look at your community and fight for them – every single one of them,” said Stephan Witherspoon, president of the NAACP.
As for councilor Van Sickle, don’t expect her to back down on holding city administration and staff accountable as she sees fit.
“Let me be very clear about — not personal attacks — but about criticizing the work of Attorney Prell who of course takes home a very heft salary thanks to the tax payers, and I have a duty to speak out,” Van Sickle said.
Prell had no comment on the matter after the meeting. He did have multiple attorneys in attendance in support of him, including Duluth City Attorney Gunnar Johnson.
Members of the Local 361 Carpenters Union were in attendance at the council meeting with signs of support for Van Sickle and Ludwig.
Meanwhile, the council can vote to remove Mayor Paine’s veto at the next council meeting with at least 7 votes, but multiple councilors said reaching that vote is highly unlikely.