Sheboygan Mayor Bob Ryan says no Wisconsin official has been dismissed for reasons other than embezzlement


Rebel Sheboygan Mayor Bob Ryan – whose drinking problems have sparked citizen contempt, YouTube humiliation and Jay Leno ridicule – has said he will become a singular figure in government history. Wisconsin if his joint council succeeds in removing him.

Wisconsin witnessed a historic series of nine recall elections in the summer of 2011. Voters removed two Republican senators from office.

But Ryan, whose town is called the Bratwurst Capital of the World, says his removal would be unique – in part because it wouldn’t involve a recall.

On August 15, 2011, the Sheboygan Common Council launched a process that could eventually cause Ryan to lose office, who resisted calls for resignation. If the ruling comes to fruition, Ryan would essentially go on trial with the council acting as judge and jury, according to a report by Sheboygan Press and Sheboygan City Attorney Steve McLean.

Ryan asserted his rights to the aldermen at the August 15 council meeting, according to WBAY-TV in Green Bay.

“It all stinks. If you want to remove me from your post, start by all means your recall,” he said. “If you want to go down this road, it is not a threat, it is a fact, it has never been done. There has never been a public official dismissed from his post in this state for anything else. that wrongdoing in power. I’m here to do a job. I will continue to do this job. You should know by now, I never quit. Never. “

For us, the key claim is this sentence:

“There has never been a civil servant dismissed from his post in this state for anything other than professional misconduct.”

Never is a long time.

Ryan did not return our call and emails for two days asking him to clarify his claim and provide proof.

“Public officer”, for example, could mean an elected or appointed representative, such as a school principal. But our feeling is that Ryan was referring to elected officials as being dismissed by a government body, not the voters.

Ryan argued that his drinking – he admitted to being an alcoholic – had not affected his duties as mayor.

The saga in Sheboygan, a Lake Michigan community of about 50,000 people 60 miles north of Milwaukee, began in September 2009, six months after Ryan, 48, was elected mayor. He called a press conference to apologize for making a sexually explicit remark about his wife’s sister. Ryan’s remark was captured on video, posted on YouTube, became fodder for Jay Leno, and led the Common Council to censor him.

The drama escalated in July 2011, when news surfaced that Ryan had received a police warning after a weekend of drinking at taverns in Elkhart Lake, becoming rude and obnoxious and at least passing out. Once. The Common Council voted to begin the impeachment process after Ryan refused his call to resign.

To see if Ryan’s claim is correct, we reached out to a number of experts.

They include state government entities – the Legislative Reference Bureau, the Historical Society, the Department of Public Education and the Judicial Commission; state-wide associations – the League of Municipalities, the Association of Counties and the Association of School Boards; political scientists – Dennis Dresang of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Joe Heim of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse; and Milwaukee historian John Gurda.

Here is what we found:

Deadly shot: In 1842, six years before Wisconsin became a state, James Vineyard, a member of the Territorial Legislature’s version of the state Senate, gunned down his colleague Charles CP Arndt in an argument after the adjournment of a legislative session. Vineyard was expelled from the legislature after refusing to accept his resignation, despite being acquitted of manslaughter at trial, according to the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau and the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Given that the shooting took place on the floor of the Legislative Assembly, it can reasonably be said that the dismissal was related to misconduct in the performance of his duties. So that one doesn’t directly undermine Ryan’s claim.

Criminal crimes: At least four state lawmakers have been removed from office after being convicted of a felony. But under state law, the evictions were automatic – no action was to be taken by the legislature – which makes their evictions different from Ryan’s.

Crimes not directly related to official duties also led to dismissals that were not automatic. For example, the New Holstein School Board fired Christopher J. Nelson, the district superintendent, after he was charged in February 2011 with attempting to arrange sex with someone he believed to be a 15-year-old boy. years. It could undermine Ryan’s claim, but Nelson was an appointed, unelected official.

Non-criminal dismissal: In 1992, the State Supreme Court dismissed Racine County Circuit Court Judge Jon Skow after admitting he was permanently disabled due to stress and depression . The High Court ruled that Skow, who suffered from alcoholism, could not perform his duties. He had previously been suspended following a number of incidents, including leaving the bench during a trial.

This case undermines Ryan’s claim, since the judge was not removed for embezzlement in the performance of his duties.

As rare as dismissals from office may be, at least two other Wisconsin mayors have been subject to removal since 2008.

The municipal council of Montello, 60 miles north of Madison, impeached Mayor Frank Breitenbach in August 2008 for reasons related to misconduct in power, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. He faced 15 allegations from employees and residents of the city, including the use of profanity with employees and the threat to fire the Montello police chief without legal authorization.

In Marinette, a Lake Michigan community 120 miles north of Sheboygan, a Common Council committee recommended hiring a special prosecutor with the goal of removing Mayor Robert Harbick from office. Harbick had argued without question the first drinking and driving offense, which is a traffic violation in Wisconsin. But the dismissal process was unsuccessful when the proposal to hire the lawyer failed in a 4-4 vote before the full board in August 2011.

Let’s review what we found.

The besieged mayor of Sheboygan said no Wisconsin official has ever been dismissed “for anything other than malfeasance in the performance of his duties.” Ryan’s reference was not to recall elections or automatic recall, but recall by a government body such as a city council.

Our feeling is that it is likely that the mayor was talking about elected officials, and we could only find one case, involving a judge, in which a dismissal was not for professional misconduct. We also found a school principal fired by a school board following the laying of criminal charges, but he was not in an elected position.

This is a statement that we could revisit if more information surfaced; after all, we are talking about over 150 years of Wisconsin history and countless government entities. For now, we think Ryan’s statement needs a bit of clarification, but is essentially correct – our definition of mostly true.


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