Ethics Commission Finds No Procedural Concerns In Superior Mayor-Councilor Relationship
A procedural question about the legalities of a city councilor voting on the salary of her spouses salary has been put to rest. An opinion offered by the Wisconsin Ethics Commission has found that Superior City Councilor Jenny Van Sickle would not be violating Wisconsin law if she voted on future city budget items - even if her husband - Superior Mayor Jim Paine's salary was included.
The question arose following the announcement of their October 2020 marriage. To stem off any air of impropriety, the council moved to seek the opinion of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. Some saw it as a personal attack on the mayor and the city councilor.
In an article in the Superior Telegram, Van Sickle commented on the ruling: "This opinion settles the manufactured concern regarding the budget. I encourage those overly preoccupied with my marriage to end their rudderless pursuit of nothing." For his part, Paine offered similar commentary:
"As expected, this opinion contains no surprises. Councilor Van Sickle, just like any other public officials before her, may continue to act on behalf of her constituents and work on our city budget. Like all public officials, we will have conflicts that arise from time to time We will recuse ourselves as necessary from any potentially conflicting votes, but we expect those to be rare and minor issues. While we will collect further advice from the city attorney, this opinion largely establishes what most of already knew - That this was merely a personal attack from a councilor with personal grievances. We are happy to see it resolved."
The opinion offered down from the Wisconsin Ethics Commission concluded that Councilor Van Sickle "may take official action related to the annual budget if those actions affect her husband's financial interest is remote and speculative." At the same time, it does suggest that the councilor should "avoid participation in any discussions, deliberations, or votes regarding the salary paid to her spouse or the benefits he is eligible to receive."