DOVER — Embattled Town Chairman Mario Lena could face a recall election after, once again, refusing Monday to resign at a Town Board meeting.
Former Town Chairman Tom Lembcke on Monday evening turned in 460 signatures in favor of triggering a recall election.
The required amount of signatures to begin the process is 411.
This comes after months of controversy surrounding Lena, who was elected last year and has since been accused of defamation, acting unprofessionally as town chairman and driving town vehicles in violation of town policy.
“Let the good people that voted me in, vote me out,” Lena said. “I will prevail.”
Under state law, the town has 30 days to verify the signatures, but Town Clerk/Treasurer Camille Gerou said she plans on completing the process within 10 days. From then, potential candidates will have six weeks to gather the 20 required signatures to formally challenge Lena. If no challengers come forward, Lena will automatically keep his seat after the six-week period. If other candidates do successfully file to run, a primary election will take place at the end of the period.
On Monday, Mario Denoto, a former Dover town supervisor, urged Lena to resign during the Town Board meeting in order to avoid potentially thousands of dollars in costs related to a recall election.
Lena, who runs a Kansasville automotive repair business and campaigned on the promise of saving Dover residents tax dollars, was undeterred.
“Not going to happen,” he challenged. “Recall me.”
Lembcke, a local farmer, said he is considering running in the recall should the petition signatures be verified, but wants to see what other candidates might launch a campaign before making a decision.
Attorney Todd Terry of Kenosha, who represents Lembcke, sent a letter dated June 1 to Lena demanding he retract reported past allegations levied against Lembcke. Lena allegedly accused past town leaders of embezzlement and fraud during a March 14 Leadership Union Grove meeting, but did not mention Lembcke by name. At an April 9 Town Board meeting, Lembcke said he believed those accusations were about him.
“I have had an opportunity to review the background and circumstances here with Mr. Lembcke and with several third party and independent witnesses and have an absolute slam dunk of a defamation case against you,” Terry’s letter reads.
During Monday’s meeting, Lena read Terry’s letter aloud and read a written apology to Lembcke for his alleged past statements.
Lena’s apology, addressed to Lembcke and Terry and dated June 8, 2016, reads in full: “Dear Sirs: I retract all negative statements I have made in the past about Thomas Lembke. I deeply apologize for any discomfort I caused in his life.”
Lembcke was angered that Lena’s statement was brief, had misspelled Lembcke’s name and was dated incorrectly.
“I don’t think that’s sufficient,” Lembcke said.
Over the course of spring, Lena took out several advertisements in the Wisconsin Hi-Liter, a local weekly advertising publication. One in the May 23 issue alleges that Lembcke’s actions as town chairman “have proved to be abusive of power” and that there was a potential recall election on the horizon.
Additionally, Lena has made accusations on his blog — marioforthepeople.blogspot.com — of abuse of power against Denoto, who owns several area Subway restaurants.
Both Denoto and Lembcke also want Lena to take out advertisements in the Hi-Liter, The Journal Times and Burlington Standard Press retracting his prior statements.
“I don’t think (a Town Board meeting is) enough of a public area,” Lembcke said, although he conceded that Lena complied with Terry’s demands to publicly retract his allegations.
Denoto also said he wants Lena to delete his blog posts and he is still considering legal action on his own. Lembcke said he is considering further legal action and will discuss options with Terry.