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Town of Waukesha chairman candidates dispute many issues as election nears

Budget, water, closed meetings contested by challenger

March 29, 2013

Two years ago, Town Chairwoman Angie Van Scyoc ran unopposed for the chairman spot.

She said it was nice not having a challenger since it was less than a year after winning a recall election the previous summer.

"We were grateful that we could attend to the work because when you're campaigning it's hard to do both especially when there's so much to do," Van Scyoc said.

This year has been much different - she has an opponent, one who has led an aggressive campaign from the beginning.

Van Scyoc is squaring off against John Marek, a general contractor and real estate investor, for the town chairman position April 2.

Marek has thrown the punches and has listed many areas where he sees the town failing. Van Scyoc said when she took over, the town was not in good shape but she has helped it move forward.

"We've been working hard since then, updating systems and processes, improving our financial system because we couldn't even run a financial statement when we came in," Van Scyoc said. "We had an almost $3 million budget and we didn't have the software to be able to manage and do the books."

Marek's reason

How these financial books are being managed, however, is at the heart of Marek's campaign. Specifically, he finds fault with the town being over budget by almost $104,000 on legal fees.

"The reason I became interested was looking at town finances and seeing how our money was being spent," said Marek, who added he initially had no interest in returning to the political spectrum after running unsuccessfully in the Republican Primary for the 84th Assembly District seat in 2010. "It doesn't matter what you spend it on if it hasn't been appropriated. You could spend it on pretty pink bows for dogs.

"Chairman Van Scyoc keeps saying, here's a pie and we're going to take this amount of the pie and allocate it for attorney fees even though we've only budgeted this much. It doesn't work that way. That's not what the state law says. You cannot incur a debt until the money has been appropriated."

The town was under budget by $250,000 in 2012 and Van Scyoc wants to move that money into the 2013 budget and for future capital projects. Marek has taken issue with the notion that the town has "saved" money on areas such as ditching and road repairs, sweeping and brush removal because he says this money was moved into legal.

"The fact that she says we saved money is hogwash," Marek said. "We're only in budget because we're not taking care of the basic infrastructure that we're supposed to."

Van Scyoc disputes claims

"He has not obviously read the amendment documents," she said. "We haven't taken money from Peter to pay Paul, if that's the position he's taking. That's simply incorrect and a review of the financial statements would provide that information."

Regarding the legal fees, Van Scyoc said "There's no damage done to anyone. We've been very open about it and very up front about it and yes, the board members all vote before any dollars are spent and (the board) all voted to have the work done.

"So there's no reason to say that we didn't know those things because obviously we had to know."

Van Scyoc added that Waukesha County Attorney Brad Schimel has reviewed the case and the town has been "completely cleared."

"They can't find anything to complain about so they're trying to make something and that's exactly what that comes down to," Van Scyoc said.

Water talk

The second reason Marek said he became interested in the seat was the town's decision on the city's water service area that he says "strips most of the property owners the right to a secondary water source. Who knows what the future holds for us for water?"

Van Scyoc, however, said that limiting the water service area protects the town borders.

Closed meetings

Marek has also questioned the amount of closed-session meetings the town has had since Van Scyoc has taken over.

"She says we need all these closed sessions because we're involved in litigation," said Marek, who claimed the town has held 71 such meetings (a further review found that there were 63). "That's hogwash. The fact is, you got communities all over that are involved in litigation and they don't run a secret government.

"There's nothing transparent in the way she governs."

Van Scyoc defended the closed-session meetings saying they dealt with legal strategy for issues with the Town of Brookfield, the City of Waukesha in regard to the Lathers property and the snow plow litigation.

"These are things that should be talked about in open," Marek said.

Van Scyoc said the town clerk does agendas for each closed session. "That's why it's so simple for my opponent to go to the website and count them all up. As issues get settled, closed sessions will certainly go away. It's strictly for legal strategy, and if we're going to spend taxpayer money we want to do so in a way we want to be successful.

"I believe in open government," she added. "I have put forth many things in place to improve transparency, which includes digitally recording all of our meetings and having them on our server where anyone can come and get copies so that the people know we have nothing to hide."

Diamond talk

While referencing the Five Diamonds (now Infinity Fields) baseball and softball complex that has caused a stir in the town since the project started a couple years ago, Marek called it a "mismanaged mess."

He said the fact that there were zero violations of their conditional use permit shows that there's nothing to address and it was only one person making the complaints.

Van Scyoc said the town has never fined the owners, but it could have because violations were made and there were multiple complaints.

"Another example of Mr. Marek not understanding what the process is," said Van Scyoc. 

Town of Brookfield

Regarding the Town of Brookfield's incorporation, Marek said the 288-acre annexation is a "nonexisting issue."

"This is a fight we don't need to be in," said Marek, saying that there's no provision in state statute allowing a town to annex town property, especially when a landowner hasn't asked for it. "The Town of Brookfield never needed to incorporate and there's no need to grow their land mass."

Said Van Scyoc, "We feel what the (Town of Brookfield) is doing is wrong and that it's against the property rights of the individuals and it will affect everyone in the Town of Waukesha. If we didn't fight that, it would be a significant loss to the taxpayers."

Looking forward, both candidates say they are confident heading into the election.

“I’m passionate about this because I think things are being run so poorly,” said Marek, who added that he would eliminate supervisors from attending meetings via Skype, something that one of the supervisors utilizes while spending his winters in Texas. (Van Scyoc says the town is utilizing technological advances to its benefit) “I’m actually surprised there hasn’t been more commotion because of the budget.”

Van Scyoc called Marek’s campaign “negative” and that they have different approaches.

“I think we have a completely separate methodology of how we’re presenting our campaigns,” Van Scyoc said. “I’m based on a positive campaign on what we’ve achieved and what we hope to achieve in the future for the Town of Waukesha. I’ve (kept) my campaign promise of protecting the town both on the financial statement and the water and the borders.”

But as she knows, it’s ultimately up to the voters.

“I can feel comfortable that I’ve done what the taxpayers have asked me to do and they’ll make the final determination as to who will lead the town in the next two years,” she said.

Angie Van Scyoc

Age: 56

Address: S51 W25375 Glendale Road

Years of residency in the Town: 29 years

Occupation: Own a management consulting firm

Education: 1979 graduate UW-Milwaukee; Business Administration degree

Previous political experience or other related experience: Town of Waukesha Plan Commission member, 18 years, Town Board chairman since 2010, served on several boards of not-for-profit groups over the years

Military experience: None

Family: Married to David for 32 years

Contact information (phone number, email): (414) 254-1066, waukeshatownchairman@gmail.com

John Marek

Age: 49

Address: W236 S4526 Whispering Hills Court

Years of residency in the Town: 13

Occupation: General Contractor/Real Estate Investment

Education: New Berlin Eisenhower High School

Previous political experience or other related experience: Ran unsuccessfully in the 84th Assembly District Republican primary in 2010

Military experience: None

Family: Married to Lisa, two teenage daughters

Contact information: (414) 640-6000, john@johnmarek.com

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