Bob Ryan recall, Sheboygan, Wisconsin (2012)
A vote about whether to recall Bob Ryan from his elected position as mayor of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, in Sheboygan County took place in a January 17th, 2012 recall primary election. Ryan was the top vote-getter in the recall primary, but because he did not receive 50% of the vote, he faced second-place finisher Terry Van Akkeren in a February 21st, 2012 general recall election. Ryan was recalled, with Van Akkeren replacing him as mayor. The recall effort was launched in August 2011.
Ryan was elected mayor of Sheboygan since 2009. Since becoming the city's mayor, he has been involved in three "major alcohol-related episodes," including "a weekend drinking binge in nearby Elkhart Lake in July ."
Ryan says that he is seeking help for his alcoholism and has declined to resign. In addition to the proposed recall, the city council is actively considering an official removal process. In response, Ryan's attorney, Dwight Darrow, suggested in a letter to the Sheboygan City Council that the mayor may be protected from dismissal by the council because alcoholism is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act: "I urge those taking action to carefully consider the ramifications of pursuing a job action against a city employee for conduct that is not inherently related to the performance of that person’s official duties."
Ryan has said that he will resign his post as mayor "immediately" if he drinks again.
Ryan's troubles with alcohol were written about in the Wall Street Journal in October 2011.
Ryan is facing two counts of misdemeanor sexual assault stemming from three day drinking binge in Elkart Lake in July 2011. A prosecutor discovered that an Elkhart Lake woman had made a fourth degree sexual assault allegation against Ryan. An investigation against Ryan has revealed that the city made a $310,000 settlement with a former employee who accused Ryan of sexual harassment.
In December 2011, the Sheboygan Common Council voted 12-2 to suspend their investigation into Ryan's behavior, pending results of the recall election.
After a first place finish in the recall primary election on January 17th, 2012, Ryan faced second-place finisher Terry Van Akkeren in a recall election on February 21st, 2012. Ryan and Van Akkeren took place in a debate on February 9th, 2012.
Ryan owes $79,189 in back taxes for a gas station that he owns. Recall supporter Mary Jo Stoelb says, “He’s touting that increasing (tax) revenue is the answer, but what happens when businesses don’t pay their share of property taxes?”
Kevin MatiChek, a member of the Sheboygan City Council, supports the recall. He says a recall will "save the integrity of the mayor’s office for our great city." MatiChek says that if a recall election is held, he will run against Ryan.
Recall supporter Mary Jo Stoelb says, "Now is not the time to be satisfied with the status quo in Sheboygan politics. Help us take pride in Sheboygan and send the mayor a message that his embarrassing and unprofessional behavior will not be tolerated."
Ryan formally challenged the recall group's statement of intent for removing him from office, which is "to preserve the integrity of (the) Mayor's office of Sheboygan." The City Clerk denied Ryan's challenge and ruled that the recall petitions were sufficient.
In February 2012, former Sheboygan mayor Juan Perez wrote an editorial in the Sheboygan Press voicing his support for Terry Van Akkeren. Perez said, "I supported Ryan when he ran for mayor. I regret I did."
Path to the ballot
4,121 signatures are required to force a recall election. The signature submission deadline was November 1, 2011.
Mary Jo Stoelb, a recall organizer, said on September 23 that the recall effort had collected about 1,200 signatures. On October 13, Stoelb reported that the recall effort had collected approximately 2,700 signatures. She said recall proponents had run out of resources and would need additional help to collect the necessary signatures by the recall deadline. On October 18, with two weeks to go before the deadline, it was reported that recall proponents had gathered 3,025 signatures.
On November 1, recall organizers submitted 4,723 signatures to the Sheboygan City Clerk. The City Clerk was given 31 days to review and validate the signatures. Ryan had 10 days to challenge the validity of signatures.
On December 1, City Clerk Sue Richards announced that 4,481 signatures had been found valid. This was 360 signatures more than were required to force a recall election. On December 5th, the Sheboygan City Council accepted the City Clerk's report on the signatures and scheduled a recall primary election for January 17th, 2012.
Candidates in the mayoral race had to file nomination petitions by December 20th. 9 candidates filed paperwork. These candidates include former state representative Terry Van Akkeren, 18-year-old high school senior Asher Heimermann, Alderman Jean Kittelson, Harbor Centre Business Improvement District Manager Randy Schwoerer, Sarah Oyler, Alderman Kevin MatiChek, Roberta Flicky-Peneski, Brian Biever, and Mark Hermann.
Recall primary election results
The recall primary took place on January 17th, 2012. Ryan and Van Akkeren moved forward to a general recall election held on February 21st, 2012.
- Bob Ryan: 3,225
- Terry Van Akkeren: 2,567
- Roberta Filicky-Peneski: 1,595
- Randy Schwoerer: 1,507
- Jean Kittelson: 480
- Erik G. Neave: 289
- Mark Hermann: 103
- Asher Heimermann: 38
Recall general election results
In the recall general election on February 21st, 2012, Terry Van Akkeren defeated Bob Ryan.
- Pierce County Herald, "Recall scheduled against Sheboygan mayor," December 6, 2011
- WISN.com, "Sheboygan Mayoral Election Results - FINAL," January 17, 2012
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Van Akkeren defeats Ryan for Sheboygan mayor," February 21, 2012
- WTAQ, "Process to recall Sheboygan mayor Bob Ryan underway," August 22, 2011
- WHBL, "Mayor's Attorney Weighs In," September 14, 2011
- Journal Sentinel Online, "Sheboygan mayor says he won't resign," August 30, 2011
- Wall Street Journal, "Alcoholic Mayor Wants Another Chance ," October 29, 2011
- WTMJ, "New allegation against Sheboygan mayor," December 17, 2011
- Sheboygan Press, "Sheboygan Mayor Bob Ryan may face two sex assault charges; council suspends special investigation," December 19, 2011
- Sheboygan Press, "Bob Ryan, Terry Van Akkeren get feisty at Sheboygan mayoral debate," February 9, 2012
- Sheboygan Press, "Sheboygan Mayor Bob Ryan criticized by recall group for back taxes; Ryan dismisses as political attack," February 10, 2012
- Sheboygan Press, "Sheboygan Mayor Bob Ryan recall group turns in 4,723 signatures," November 1, 2011
- Sheboygan Press, "Sheboygan Mayor Bob Ryan recall hits 3,000 signatures," October 18, 2011
- Sheboygan Press, "Sheboygan Mayor Ryan contests recall effort," November 12, 2011
- FOX 6, "Sheboygan City Clerk says Mayor Ryan recall petition is sufficient," November 30, 2011
- Sheboygan Press, "Community Conversation by former Mayor Juan Perez: Give Sheboygan new start in recall election," February 16, 2012
- Fox 11, "Deadline looms for Sheboygan mayor recall," October 13, 2011
- Channel 3000, "Sheboygan Mayor Recall Organizers Collect 1,200 Signatures," September 23, 2011
- Sheboygan Press, "4,481 Mayor Bob Ryan recall signatures ruled valid," December 1, 2011
- 620 WTMJ, "Sheboygan Mayor Bob Ryan officially headed for recall," December 5, 2011
- Sheboygan Press, "Two more to challenge Sheboygan Mayor Bob Ryan in recall election," December 6, 2011
- Sheboygan Press, "Candidates had fun running for mayor," January 18, 2012
- Sheboygan Press, "Sheboygan mayoral recall: Mayor Bob Ryan ousted from office by challenger Terry Van Akkeren," February 21, 2012
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