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Supervisor moves to strip board chair of title

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published June 19. 2007, 2:24 p.m.)

Walworth County Board Chairwoman Ann Lohrmann is facing a move by a fellow supervisor to strip her of her title as board leader.

Supervisor Jerry Grant, who called for Lohrmann's resignation in December, is asking the executive committee to recommend removing Lohrmann from her post.

"I believe Ann Lohrmann has failed as a proper leader of the Walworth County Board," Grant wrote in a June 11 letter to executive committee chairman David Weber.

"Lohrmann has campaigned to satisfy her personal agenda, which is not in unison with the majority of the county board."

A phone call to Grant was not immediately returned.

Grant's request comes because the chairwoman campaigned to downsize the county board, something the majority of the board chose not to support, Lohrmann said.

"They're angry because I circulated petitions and supported the downsizing," Lohrmann said. "You know, what can I say? That's been the theme.

"It's understandable. The county board supervisors are upset they will have to run in a contested election. I took a stand and the taxpayers sided with me."

Shortly after Grant called for Lohrmann's resignation, which she vehemently declined to do, the county board sought an attorney general's opinion on how to remove a board chairperson.

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said it only needs a simple majority and can happen at any time.

Since the board elects the chairperson, the position falls under a statute that allows the board to remove the title without cause, Van Hollen opined.

"This is the same rule that applies in the State Legislature, where officers elected by either House may be removed by the House that elected them, 'at pleasure,'" according to a press release from Van Hollen's office.

However, "ending the tenure of a member of the county board as chair of the board does not oust that member from the board," Van Hollen wrote in his opinion letter back to Walworth County.

Walworth County Administrator David Bretl feels confident with the opinion.

"I don't disagree with the attorney general's opinion," he said. "It was a complicated and gray area. That's why we were looking for their opinion to settle it.

"We turned to them for guidance. That's a good time to do it, when you have something that's less than clear."

Lohrmann sided with other legal opinions, none of which were from the Attorney General's Office, that say a two-thirds majority and a cause are both needed for removal.

The county board is expected to discuss Van Hollen's opinion and Lohrmann's future at its executive committee meeting Wednesday at 4 p.m.

"We had been waiting seven months for that," said Supervisor Dave Weber, executive committee chairman. "Everyone was looking forward to getting it. Now we have to decide once we got it, what to do with it."

Removing Lohrmann from the chairperson's post would be a slap in the face of the voters who wanted to downsize the board from 25 to 11 supervisors, Lohrmann said.

"I do have a right to free speech, but I don't feel that way right now," she said. "They feel I should sit there, run the meeting and have no opinion. That's what they're telling me."


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