City council member recalled in Merrill, Wisconsin

In Merrill, Wisconsin, Council President Rob Norton and Aldermen Paul Russell, Tim Meehean, John Van Lieshout, and Dave Sukow were up for recall on July 16. Four of the five officials retained their positions, but Tim Meehean was successfully recalled.
  • In District 1, Alderman Paul Russell defeated Becky Meyer with 62% of the vote.
  • In District 5, Alderman John Van Lieshout defeated Shannon Collins with 52% of the vote.
  • In District 6, Alderman Dave Sukow faced no opposition.
  • In District 7, Council President Rob Norton defeated Eric Dayton with 56% of the vote.
  • In District 8, Alderman Tim Meehean was defeated by Steve Sabatke, who received 56% of the vote.
The recall effort was organized by Merrill resident Mark Bares in response to a property tax increase. Petition language was shared across all five petitions. The following language is quoted verbatim from the statement of intent against Norton:
  • “Repeated failure to protect the best interests of the constituents in light of mismanagement, misinformation, and possible illegal activities of administration and the council.”
  • “Willfully ignored and took no action to correct errors by city staff which more than doubled the budget effect on personal property taxes.”
  • “Failure to take action to end violations of open meetings laws including, but not limited to walking quorums un-posted meetings, committee meetings held with other council members present and allowed to participate, and repeated violations of state closed meeting statutes.”
  • “Willfully ignored the direct legislation referendum passed by the voters, in 2016, resulting in the elimination / curtailing of a duly elected position.”
  • “Failure to follow city ordinances as to the acquisition / purchase of property.”
  • “Failure to oversee city staff and failure to listen to the taxpayers of the district.”
The number of valid signatures required for a recall election in Merrill is 25% of the number of people who voted in the last election for the office of governor within the electoral district of the officer targeted for recall. This meant that about 130 valid signatures were needed for each official. The petition against Paul Russell was initially found insufficient due to errors in the signature-gathering process, but petitioners successfully corrected the issue in the five-day window afforded to them.
In 2018, Ballotpedia covered a total of 206 recall efforts against 299 elected officials. Of the 123 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 77 were recalled for a rate of 62.6 percent. That was higher than the 56.9 percent rate and 56.3 percent rate for 2017 and 2016 recalls, respectively.
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