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Mayor demands councilor’s resignation

Superior Mayor Jim Paine on Monday called for the resignation of City Councilor Graham Garfield. Garfield, 26, who was sworn in last week to a second term serving the city's 6th District, is facing criminal charges for allegedly pointing a loaded...

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Superior Mayor Jim Paine answers questions from the media at a press conference at the Government Center in Superior on Monday morning. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

 

Superior Mayor Jim Paine on Monday called for the resignation of City Councilor Graham Garfield.

Garfield, 26, who was sworn in last week to a second term serving the city’s 6th District, is facing criminal charges for allegedly pointing a loaded firearm at his fiancee during a domestic incident Thursday night.

“I first want to restate my shock, and now my outrage, at the very serious charges facing Mr. Garfield,” Paine said in the Government Center Boardroom. “But we still have very important work to do at the city of Superior. It is obvious to me that Mr. Garfield cannot and should not continue to represent his constituents while he faces criminal charges, and I am demanding his resignation or removal by the Superior City Council.”

The councilor’s contact information was taken off the city’s website Friday at the request of the reported victim, according to Rani Gill, chief of staff to the mayor. Garfield’s voice mailbox was full, and he did not respond to an email Monday from the Telegram.

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“It is important that we do not minimize the severity of this situation nor attempt to simply move on,” Paine said. “There is a victim here. That person cannot minimize what happened.”

The mayor urged members of the press and public to respect the reported victim’s privacy and dignity.

Other councilors also expressed their shock.

“These are serious, serious allegations and the light that it’s brought to the city is almost embarrassing. It’s not the kind of spotlight you want the city to have,” said 5th District Councilor Brent Fennessey. “Especially with the new transition, the new councilors, the new mayor … as we’re all trying to work together and move the city forward - this is the last thing we want to create this kind of a stumbling block.”

Paine said the pending court case could take months to resolve.

“I think that’s the clear dividing line here,” Paine said. “Of course, people make mistakes, but this is bigger than just a simple mistake. This is something that will, by the nature of the charges, prevent him from effectively serving in public office. I think his constituents are going to need better representation than he is going to provide.”

The mayor said he can’t directly affect Garfield’s seat, and the public can’t initiate recall efforts until the councilor has served a year of his second term. If Garfield does resign voluntarily, the Council could name a replacement or choose to hold a special election to fill his seat.

“It could be a month, two months, I don’t know exactly what the time frame is,” Fennessey said. “I do know that if he does resign, the council would be eager to fill that position.”

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City Attorney Frog Prell said that if Garfield does not resign, the City Council could remove him for cause with a supermajority vote - eight out of 10 councilors.

“I think our council can look at whether or not Councilor Garfield has breached the public trust, and they can do so without waiting for the court process to play out,” Prell said.

“I think we’re going to have to get together as a City Council, and we’re going to have to talk about everything as more details are coming forward,” said Council Vice President Keith Kern. “Obviously, it was a transitional time so we’re still trying to get all the pieces together and go from there.”

Garfield faces felony first-degree recklessly endangering safety with use of a dangerous weapon, and misdemeanor charges of domestic possession of a firearm while intoxicated, pointing a firearm at another and disorderly conduct with use of a dangerous weapon - all domestic abuse charges.

Court Commissioner Rebecca Lovejoy set cash bail at $5,000 based on the seriousness of the charges.

“The nature of the charges are somebody under the influence pointing a gun that may have been loaded at another person in close proximity,” Lovejoy said.

She also ordered Garfield to have no contact with the reported victim and not to possess or use dangerous weapons or alcohol. Garfield listed an alternate address in Mason, Wis., his parents’ address, based on the no contact order.

Officers responded to a Banks Avenue residence at about 7:27 p.m. Thursday after a domestic dispute call was received from a third party, according to Superior Assistant Police Chief Matt Markon. During the investigation, officers learned Garfield was the suspect, and he had left the residence prior to their arrival.

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Garfield was located at Pattison State Park and taken into custody by members of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office at about 9 p.m. Thursday.

According to the criminal complaint:

A breath test taken at the time of his arrest showed an alcohol level of 0.164.

Garfield and the reported victim had been arguing, and he had been drinking a lot prior to the incident, the complaint stated. He is accused of pointing a .22 revolver at the victim. Officers found a .22 pistol at the Banks Avenue residence, loaded with eight bullets, according to the complaint.

Garfield waived time limits for a preliminary hearing to retain an attorney; the hearing is set for May 3.

“Domestic violence is unacceptable,” Kern said. “Serious allegations in front of him right now - it’s a serious matter. We’re going to do our best as city councilors to resolve the issue that we have.”

Garfield was recently re-elected to his council seat, defeating challenger Tylor Elm by one vote.

“We’ll get through it,” Fennessey said. “If he resigns quickly, we’ll get through it a lot faster.”

Although this case is receiving media attention, Paine said law enforcement officers respond to hundreds of domestic violence calls every year.

“I want to also encourage anyone else that feels unsafe in a relationship to reach out to CASDA and any person suffering from substance abuse or mental health issues to seek help before a crisis occurs,” the mayor said.

Related Topics: SUPERIOR
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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