The Tomah mayoral race was thrown into question last week when news broke a candidate had a felony conviction on his record. Since then, the Tomah city council and administration have taken immediate steps to move forward with the upcoming race.
Leroy Kelsey was convicted of taking nearly $7,000 from the Sparta American Legion back in 1990. Not only does this impact his run for mayor of Tomah, but he is also a member of the Tomah City Council. The city administrator says the Department of Justice has ruled that Kelsey is not eligible to hold office as mayor or as an alderman, so now the city is in the process of finding a replacement.
After Leroy Kelsey's decade-old felony conviction came to light last week, he has voluntarily withdrawn from the race.
"As city administrator, I talked to Mr. Kelsey and explained the situation to him. He was more than agreeable to offer a letter of resignation,” said Roger Gorius, Tomah city administrator.
However, the government accountability board says it's too late to change the ballot, so Kelsey's name will remain on it.
"If Mr. Kelsey wins the popular vote, then the way it would work is he is not allowed to be sworn in,” said Gorius.
At that point, it would be the City Council's duty to appoint someone for the position of mayor until the next election.
"The state constitution does not allow for succession. It doesn't just go to the next popular vote,” said Gorius.
With the election about three weeks away, this doesn't really change anything for mayoral candidate Shannon Hough.
"From what I was told, I am still a candidate for mayor and still have to win the election,” said Hough.
But she says the situation is unfortunate for the residents of Tomah.
"It is upsetting, but not just for me, more for the city of Tomah. The residents deserve honest government and honest representation, and I feel that they've been let down,” said Hough.
Kelsey is also stepping down from his role on the City Council.
"He has given me a letter of resignation to step down as an alderman,” said Gorius.
Kelsey was one of the city's eight council members. With his resignation, the position will soon open up.
"We basically take applications for people who are interested in serving as an alderman. Those applications are reviewed by the council, interviews are done and then they appoint a member to sit there until that seat comes up for election,” said Gorius.
Although it's a lot of change, Gorius said it's best to keep moving forward.
"Since we already have a letter of resignation from Mr. Kelsey, it would be my recommendation that we start the process immediately,” said Gorius.
If Tomah's City Council is forced to appoint a mayor, it will only last until the next election. The city could hold a special election, but since they are expensive and the city has an election coming up in the fall, the city administrator said it would be a good idea to wait until then to have the next election for mayor.
The Tomah Mayoral Candidates Forum has been canceled for Tuesday. However, Shannon Hough will field questions about her mayoral campaign in front of the Chamber and Rotary on Tuesday at the Ground Round at noon.