Superior’s City Council is slated to consider overriding Mayor Jim Paine’s first veto since taking office in 2017.
Seven councilors would have to vote in favor of the override to censure Councilor Jenny Van Sickle. Councilors split 6-4 in favor of the censure Councilor Craig Sutherland presented to members June 18. The censure was in response to a tweet Van Sickle posted June 13 concerning a legal opinion rendered by City Attorney Frog Prell.
Councilors Brent Fennessey, Craig Sutherland, Keith Kern, Esther Dalbec Dan Olson and Jack Sweeney voted in favor of the censure and would have to convince Councilors Tylor Elm, Ruth Ludwig, Warren Bender or Van Sickle to change their minds about the censure to override the mayor’s veto.
Censure is a means of discipline for members of a legislative body to express disapproval of someone or something in a formal statement.
Immediately following the June 18 vote, Paine announced he would veto the measure because it punished political speech and would not foster an environment of free debate necessary to represent the residents of the city.
Paine said he is in a relationship with Van Sickle, and he checked carefully in advance of the censure vote to ensure there would be no conflict of interest in vetoing the measure because of that relationship.
Under Wisconsin law, a conflict of interest is defined as using a public office to for economic benefit such as financial gains or something of substantial value.
“Obviously, I understand there’s a perception there,” Paine said. “But the other thing that comes into it is ‘can people in relationships even serve on the same body or should they?’”
However, he said nothing prohibits people involved in a relationship from serving on the same body. In fact, Fennessey joined the Council when his father, former Councilor Tom Fennessey, was still serving, and Kern and Sutherland have been friends since childhood.
“Now, if they had censured her for some other behavior — other than political speech — say if she had broken the law or behaved very inappropriately toward a private citizen, for example, that would have been perfectly within order for censure, I believe,” Paine said. “I didn’t approve of her censure of Sutherland either, and if that would have passed, I would have vetoed that too.”
Van Sickle submitted a resolution to censure Sutherland at the June 18 meeting, but she withdrew it that night before it was considered by the Council.
The Council meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 2, in Room 201 of the Government Center, 1316 N. 14th St.