Green Bay council passes election confidence resolution
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – The city council narrowly passed a resolution expressing confidence in Green Bay’s handling of the August and November 2020 elections, amid outside allegations of wrongdoing, at its meeting Tuesday, May 4.
“Based on the information I have now, I support this resolution,” said District 4 Alderperson Bill Galvin. “I think the city conducted a fair and legal election.”
The council for several weeks put off a decision on the resolution, originally drafted in March by Alderpersons Barbara Dorff, Lynn Gerlach and Kathy Lefebvre in anticipation of a finalized report on the election from City Attorney Vanessa Chavez, which alders received late last month.
In the 19-page report, Chavez reaffirms the city’s stance that it did nothing wrong.
Chavez’s full report was unanimously voted to be received and placed on file at Tuesday’s meeting.
There wasn’t solidarity, however, when it came time to approve the full confidence resolution in regards to the city’s handling of the August and November 2020 elections.
The resolution title originally included the wording “full confidence,” but was amended by Gerlach to remove the word “full,” which she said seemed to be a hold up for some alders.
“The only concern I have heard is about the word ‘full,’ or ‘full confidence,’ and that is just the title,” she said. “We did face a pandemic condition. We did administer the elections according to the statutes. We did maintain control of all election facilities and technology. We did form an ad hoc committee. We did approve the purchase of voting technology. We did prepare a template for a safe and fair election – need I go on? All of these things are facts. So if your only problem with the resolution is two words in the title, amend it.”
Many alders said regardless of their vote, the entire issue puts them in a difficult position.
“We do not want to be put in a compromised position to have to vote against our city,” District 9 Alderperson Brian Johnson said. “As I said, I do not believe any malfeasance has occurred and do respect the job that the mayor and the administration and others that have been involved in this process have done. But like I said before, we have an open complaint that has not been adjudicated. That sends up a big flag. Until that is resolved, I don’t know how anybody could quite frankly take a vote supporting full confidence when you have open complaints.”
Those in favor of the resolution said this has gone on long enough, and it’s time for the council to support its administration.
“This is the time that we stand behind what we know to be true,” Dorff said. “That we support our elections committee, we support the way our elections were run, we support our mayor, our staff, our clerk, our former clerk, our future clerks. We support Green Bay. And we make that statement by voting ‘yes’ to this resolution.”
Gerlach echoed Dorff’s support.
“This is not going to end because this is not a search for the truth,” Gerlach said. “That is the problem. We have, through a pandemic that we couldn’t control, ended up in a very difficult situation, that has by no one’s fault invited in people who have nothing to do with Green Bay, who have nothing to do with our election and saw this as an opportunity to come in and stir the pot and use this, manipulate this situation to make trouble. And the truth is what is the victim in this. The truth has nothing to do with any of this. If we don’t put an end to this – it ain’t going to end. Now let’s put an end to this tonight.”
Others cautioned passing the resolution doesn’t end the discussion.
“As much as some of us would like to think that this resolution will kind of wrap this up in a tidy bow and it’s over, I don’t think it will be over,” said District 12 Alderperson Jesse Brunette. “I think there will still be a lot of discussions about our elections. And I don’t want us to rush into voting, ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ on a resolution with (those matters pending).”
The resolution passed with a 6-1 vote, with 5 abstentions. Alderpersons Dorff, Gerlach, Lefebvre, Galvin, Randy Scannell and Veronica Corpus-Dax voted in favor.
Alder Mark Steuer voted “no.”
Brunette, Johnson, Chris Wery, Craig Stevens and John Vander Leest abstained.
Face mask mandate
The council did not discuss or vote on an extension to the city’s face-covering requirement, which expired Tuesday night.
“Reading the discussion that we had when the requirement was put in place, it was quite clear that council wanted to give our community some time to get vaccinated,” Mayor Eric Genrich said. “As you all know, we have universal eligibility for vaccination for people 16 and up here, and that vaccine rollout has been really robust. We are lucky to have seen case count continuing to decline, hospitalizations and death rates also declining. So I did not choose to place that item on the agenda. We did not have alders take that step to put that on the agenda either.”
A Brown County advisory encouraging wearing masks remains in effect.
“I would encourage people to continue listening, especially to our Brown County Health Department, which continues to encourage mask-wearing where appropriate in indoor settings, in crowded settings and of course social distancing and washing of the hands,” Genrich said.
He said he will continue to require mask wearing for the foreseeable future in city facilities.