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Jackson County town to vote on recall effort against chairman

Jackson County town to vote on recall effort against chairman

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The Jackson County town of Manchester will conduct a recall election for town chairman July 17.

Todd Olson filed a recall petition against town Chairman Scott Barton, citing misconduct in office. The 124-signature petition was certified June 5, easily topping the 79 signatures required to trigger the election, in which Ron Rowlee is challenging the incumbent.

Rowlee contends Barton is spending too much on sand and diesel fuel, and Thomas Franks, whom Barton defeated in the April 2017 election, contends that Barton has behaved abusively toward his wife, town Clerk Rebecca Franks, in email correspondence and during meetings.

Thomas Franks, who was on the town board from 2011 to 2015, was one of five people who circulated the recall petition. Rebecca Franks declined to discuss the basis of the petition.

“I have not verbally harassed or intimidated the clerk at all,” Barton told the Tribune. “I have even tried to offer support, but our clerk is inexperienced and doesn’t follow board recommendations.”

Thomas Franks said that during a June meeting he and his children held up #metoo and #timesup signs in response to Barton yelling at Rebecca Franks. Barton and Thomas Frank both called police, but no charges were filed.

Thomas Franks accused Barton of “continually breaking open meeting rules” and not sharing bids for an asphalt contract with board members at a meeting.

Barton said the recall petition is “completely based on false and untruthful accusations ... (Thomas Franks is) an ex-board member who was voted off three years ago, and ever since it’s been a nightmare.”

The asphalt bid in question, Barton said, was not in response to an ad published in the spring of 2017 and the board decided not to open the hand-delivered bid received last fall.

The company that did the original paving did an insufficient job and the town needed to fix its mistakes, Barton said.

Rowlee claims the bids were rigged.

Thomas Franks called out Barton for not investigating an increase in sand purchases. Rowlee said he believes the board is spending an inordinate amount on sand and diesel fuel: “We feel they are dishonest and misappropriating funds.”

Barton, who also has served on the Black River Falls school board, said he is prepared to face his opponent and hopes to inspire unity in the town.

“My job is just to try to make peace in the community. ... There is enough division in the world as it is, and we don’t need it in our community,” Barton said. “Given my work and education, I’m ready to stand up against anything they throw at me.”

The town chairman is accused of spending too much on sand and diesel fuel, and Thomas Franks, whom Scott Barton defeated in the April 2017 election, contends that Barton has behaved abusively toward his wife.

Emily Pyrek can be reached at emily.pyrek@lee.net.

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General assignment reporter

Emily Pyrek covers health, human interest stories and anything involving dogs for the La Crosse Tribune. She is always interested in story ideas and can be contacted at emily.pyrek@lee.net.

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