Mayor Jim Schmitt survives removal attempt
GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt has survived an effort to remove him from office.
Green Bay's city council chambers turned into a court room Monday night, with Schmitt's future in office at stake.
“I don't trust him anymore,” said Scott Vanidestine, a Green Bay resident who filed a petition asking for Schmitt’s removal. “I couldn't do business with the city anymore.”
Vanidestine filed the petition in December. Vanidestine points to Schmitt's three campaign finance convictions as cause for Schmitt’s removal from office. However, Schmitt's attorney argued that does not meet the state law's criteria for removal.
“They did not involve any mayoral duty,” said Patrick Knight, Schmitt’s attorney. “They did not involve any breach of mayoral duty.”
City council members spent an hour listening to arguments from Vanidestine and Knight. They spent double that amount of time deliberating the evidence in closed session.
“This is not a good time for the city by any means,” said David Nennig, a Green Bay alderman.
In the end, the council voted 9 to 3, finding cause to remove Schmitt from office. However, when voting on the actual removal, Alderman Randy Scannell changed sides, making the vote 8 to 4, one vote shy of the amount needed to remove Schmitt as mayor.
“I feel a bit arrogant to assume I know the electorate better than themselves and I should act on their part and remove someone when they have that within their own power to do,” said Scannell.
“Everyone knows that any other person who had done anything like this would be removed from their job in the city of Green Bay,” said Alderman Guy Zima.
Schmitt's opponents have said a recall petition will be next in the effort to remove him from office. If that happens, Schmitt says he will fight to keep his job.
“I'm a strong mayor,” said Schmitt. “I'm going to keep the city moving as I've committed to do the last 14 years. I plan to finish my term.”
Schmitt's term ends in 2019.
GREEN BAY (WLUK) - An Outagamie County judge denied Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt's request to halt a removal hearing before it even started.
Schmitt was convicted of three misdemeanors for violating state campaign finance reporting laws.
After a citizen filed a complaint seeking his removal from office, Schmitt petitioned the court. He argued that the violations were not tied to his official duties as mayor, therefore the hearing should not proceed. The City Council's attorney argued the mayor could appeal any decision made by the council, but that court action prior was unwarranted.
Judge John DesJardins says the hearing may continue.
"Violating campaign laws as an incumbent attempting to retain an office, however, cannot always be viewed as unconnected to the incumbent's actions as an elected official. When the violations indicate some merging of the official's role as candidate with his role as incumbent elected official, the requisite connection to satisfy the cause requirement of (state statute) could be found. The Common Council has alleged, for example, that in the course of violating campaign finance laws, Schmitt used his official position as Mayor to direct the City Clerk to conduct an audit of his campaign finance reports, thus merging his acts as mayor with his acts as a candidate. As a result, the Common Council has shown that it is proceeding on alleged wrongs connected to Schmitt's actions are Mayor," the judge wrote. "Under the circumstances of this case, the Court does not find grounds to grant the extraordinary remedy of a writ of prohibition. Schmitt retains the alternative remedy of certiotari review if the Common Council votes to remove him on grounds without a sufficient connection to his capacity as mayor."
The City Council is expected to start discussion of the removal petition at 7 p.m.
Schmitt and his attorney declined interview requests about the judge's decision.
Green Bay City Council President Tom DeWane says he is happy with the judge's decision.
"We need to get this going and get it over with," said DeWane. "It's been here for a while. I had a feeling this was the way it would go. The evidence was there that we were able to hold this by law.
Green Bay resident Scott Vanidestine filed the petition calling for the hearing in December.
The way the hearing works is the council will hear arguments from Schmitt's attorney and the private attorney the council hired. Once the arguments are done, the council will deliberate and vote on whether Schmitt should keep his job.
Schmitt has a choice whether the hearing is in open or closed session.
Three quarters support from the council is needed for Schmitt to be removed.
FOX 11's Ben Krumholz will be at tonight's hearing and will have updates on FOX 11 News at Five, Nine, and Ten.