Patton Throws Sideswipe Pitch Early in Campaign
“Well, if that’s the kind of thing that’s happening, the people deserve to know about that kind of thing.”
By Brandi Makuski
Though the candidate pool for mayor of Stevens Point won’t be official until Jan. 6, at least one running for the city’s executive position has already begun to question the actions of another candidate.
Alderman Tony Patton, who announced his intentions to run for mayor in November, took a chance at Monday’s Council meeting to voice concerns about a potential violation of campaign finance law by someone running for local office, though he did not disclose which one.
Patton did provide clues, though, as he broached the subject when he asked for discussion on minutes from the Dec. 8 Personnel Committee, a common step by City Council Members with questions or corrections on past meeting minutes- all of which must be approved by the Council prior to making them part of the city’s formal record.
“As I started running for mayor myself I found out there’s a lot more stringent rules than for alderperson or maybe any other [local] office,” Patton said. “So I’ll just ask, is it okay for city employees to campaign on city time, while they’re punched in?”
Under state law current city employees must notify the city when they intend to seek public office. Two such employees- Alex Kochanowski and Pam Kruzicki- had their written intentions to run for elected office included in the Dec. 8 meeting packet. Kochanowski, who works in the city’s transit department, is running for mayor and Kruzicki, an employee of the city’s utilities department, announced she is seeking re-election as clerk/treasurer for the Town of Alban.
City Attorney Andrew Beveridge said the answer was “somewhat complicated” because there are state laws, local ordinances and the city’s internal administrative policies to consider.
“But with regard to the city’s administrative policy, it’s 100 percent clear; employees should not engage in political activity during working hours while employed with the city,” Beveridge said.
City Clerk John Moe said according to the state’s campaign finance laws, campaigning while on duty as a city employee could be construed as receiving a donation from a corporation.
“So if anyone had information about a candidate doing that,” Patton said, “they should contact your office, if they had firsthand knowledge of that?”
Interim Mayor Gary Wescott told Patton anyone with direct knowledge of “any city employee who is campaigning or doing what you described on the floor here, the contact should be the city attorney or the city clerk.”
When asked after the meeting why he didn’t address his concerns with city officials privately, Patton said he simply wanted the question on the record.
“Well, if that’s the kind of thing that’s happening, the people deserve to know about that kind of thing,” he said.
Patton said he had no firsthand knowledge of the activity but did say he heard about it from a third party. He declined to say which candidate the allegation involved.
Patton is one of six who have announced intentions to run for mayor, along with Aldermen Jerry Moore and Mike Wiza, Kochanowski, local businesswoman Barb Jacob and former School Board Member Bob Larson.
Those intending to run for the spring election must return campaign petitions by January 6, 2015. Candidates for mayor need 200-400 signatures before being placed on the April ballot.