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County board entwined in political intrigue

--- Division runs deep through board members and voters

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published July 5, 2007, 1:53 p.m.) Comment on this story

Negotiation? Intimidation? Politicking? Blackmail?

What do you call the phone exchange between Jim Simons, the town of Spring Prairie chairman, and County Supervisor Joyce Ketchpaw?

The late June conversation, which became known to reporters via a letter to the editor by Supervisor Margaret Downing, had an offer made with some political ramifications.

Ketchpaw, who is facing a potential recall, said Simons, a supporter of county board downsizing and County Chairwoman Ann Lohrmann, told her he could make the recall go away if she shows support for Lohrmann.

Simons said he made the call to Ketchpaw because "it is in the best interest of the county that this arguing and fighting stops. I said I can talk to the people that are in the recall if you can work with the people on the board."

Ketchpaw is being recalled by Jim Stemper, of East Troy, who promised to run for the seat if he gets the required signatures to force a special election.

Simons called his offer "negotiations."

Ketchpaw called it "intimidation."

Neither thinks the recall will go away.

"It was intimidating in a sense that (Simons) was saying, 'Don't change your mind. This can all go away, but (if you) don't change your mind, it won't,'" Ketchpaw said.

The county executive committee recently voted 3-2 to recommend stripping Lohrmann of her title. Ketchpaw is not on the committee, but has publicly said she lost trust in Lohrmann's leadership.

The county board is expected to vote on removing Lohrmann from the leader's seat this Tuesday.

County supervisors who want Lohrmann gone say it's because they've lost faith in her leadership and her ability to keep the board cohesive. She has also failed to support county board decisions made by a majority vote, some have said.

Lohrmann, who championed for downsizing the county board, says the petition for her removal is linked only to her wanting a smaller number of supervisors.

Ketchpaw wouldn't say how she will vote on Tuesday, but said she had been working with her board colleagues to bring peace to the county board.

"My plan was to bring a resolution," she said. "I thought there could be a nice conclusion."

Neither she nor Simons would call the conversation an attempt at political blackmail.

"I thought well, maybe I'll try to negotiate something to have a ceasefire here so we can concentrate on getting a decent (county) budget," Simons said.

"In my judgment, I thought I knew enough people on the board and people in the recalls that if we all thought about it for a few minutes we could settle down. Apparently, that's not what people want to do."

In her letter, Downing said the recall of Ketchpaw is using intimidation to gain control of the county board.

"I believe Supervisor Ketchpaw is being threatened with a recall solely because she was vocal in her decision to support the termination of Chairperson Lohrmann," Downing wrote.

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