State officials overturn clerk’s decision to disqualify candidate for errors on forms
James Schutkin of Cedarburg, who was disqualified as a candidate for the 17th District seat on the Ozaukee County Board last week, will be allowed on the ballot, the Government
Accountability Board decided Wednesday.
County Clerk Julie Winkelhorst last week took Schutkin’s name off the primary ballot, saying his nomination papers were incomplete.
However, the GAB decided to reinstate Schutkin “citing substantial compliance,” Winkelhorst said Wednesday.
“I stand by my decision, but I respect the decision of the Government Accountability Board,” she said.
The decision means there will be a Feb. 18 primary since Schutkin and Cedarburg residents Robert Dieffenbach and James Konowalski all submitted papers to seek the seat being
vacated by Supr. James Uselding.
The candidates receiving the two highest vote totals will then face off in the April 1 general election.
Winkelhorst said she initially disqualified Schutkin because the date of the election was not included in the header at the top of the forms and the jurisdiction was incorrectly
identified as Cedarburg, not Ozaukee County. The 17th District seat represents a portion of the City of Cedarburg.
The error, she said, would be considered a “fatal flaw” by the GAB.
Schutkin appealed Winkelhorst’s decision to the GAB.
“I think it’s unfair,” he said. “It’s not right.
“I want to be put back on the ballot or I will take legal action. I have been deprived of my Constitutional right to run for office.”
When he brought in his nomination papers, Schutkin said, Winkelhorst and another person in her office went over them “line by line” and said they were in order.
The next day, after the deadline for papers to be turned in had passed, Winkelhorst called with the news he had been disqualified, he said.
“She’s the clerk. She should have seen a date was omitted,” Schutkin said. “If she would have said to me, ‘You left that blank’ I could have put it in or done them over. But she said
it was fine.”
Schutkin, 87, is a resident of Lasata Care Center. A retired pharmacist, he said he decided to run for the County Board because of discussions about the fate of the county-owned
senior living campus.
“I want to have a voice in it,” he said. “I feel we (Lasata residents) should have representation when they’re talking about doing this or that to Lasata. I have the support of 90% of
the residents living here.
“We have a wonderful home here, and we don’t want to lose it.”
Winkelhorst said that when candidates bring in their nomination papers, she and her staff do a preliminary review, followed by a more thorough review later.
It was during that more thorough review that the issues with Schutkin’s papers were discovered, she said.
“Yes, it should have been caught (in the preliminary review),” Winkelhorst said. “That’s my error. But it’s the responsibility of candidates to have their papers in order before they
bring them in to file.”
Winkelhorst said she consulted with the staff at the GAB before making her decision.
“That’s how the GAB would handle it,” she said. “If they handle it that way at the state level, why wouldn’t we handle it this way at the local level?
“It was a very difficult decision that I made, but I’m comfortable with it.”
It was a difficult decision, Winkelhorst said, because no one wants to discourage people from running for office.