The village of Ames’ political process used to be handled in a quiet and unassuming manner.
“This is my third term as trustee,” said Mike McMahon, “and I’ve never disagreed with anyone in our little government.”
Since the last election though, things haven’t been so quiet.
Thanks to some poorly designed ballots, the election was called into question. Losing mayoral candidate Don Krutz even filed an official complaint with the state Attorney General’s Office.
Then, the man who beat him, Richard Wilday, died suddenly in April, just 19 days after taking office. Ever since, the two-person government has generated more controversy than might be expected from a village with just 96 eligible voters.
Currently the village is run by McMahon, a Republican, and Martin Wilcox, a Democrat. Both men were elected as trustees in the suspect election, but since Wilcox recently served as mayor, he was appointed to fill that role again.
“He was the most qualified of either of us,” McMahon said.
As McMahon explained it, the decision seemed simple enough, but there was some argument from Krutz.
“Now we have a guy that shouldn’t have been elected trustee as sitting mayor,” Krutz said.
His complaint stems from the controversial election. Among other things, the past village clerk forgot to include lines for write-in candidates. Wilcox, who ran as a trustee write-in against McMahon and Sandy Malcolm, also happened to be a poll watcher. Krutz argues Wilcox swayed the vote toward himself while informing people about the missing write-in lines.
Originally, after filing the complaint, he said he wanted the whole election thrown out and punitive action taken against Wilcox. Now though, his position has moderated slightly. It’s been two months since Krutz complained to the attorney general and so far the paperwork has just been shuttled around from government agency to government agency.
Back in March, the Montgomery County Board of Elections said the village wasn’t under its jurisdiction. Three weeks after Krutz brought his complaint to the attorney general, the office shifted responsibility back to the county level.
“Then they sent it on to the state Board of Elections,” Krutz said. “I’ve called them three times, and they can’t seem to find it.”
State Board of Elections officials declined comment on their involvement with Krutz’s complaint. Now, after months of waiting to hear back from government agencies, Krutz admits to some stubbornness.
“I don’t even care if they tell me my complaint has no merit,” he said. “I just want to hear back.”
Despite what Village Clerk Katie Bottger called a “silent majority that doesn’t care,” Krutz isn’t the only one dissatisfied with village officials. Malcolm lost to Wilcox in the trustee race, but was set to step into the seat when Wilcox was appointed mayor. However, state law stipulates Wilcox’s empty seat must stay open until a special election.
Malcolm could not be reached Tuesday, but both McMahon and Krutz said she was not happy about that ruling.
“They’re asking us to do things we can’t do,” McMahon said. “We wanted to run another election, but we don’t have the authority. We wanted to appoint Malcolm, but it’s against state law.”
Unless instructed otherwise, the village government will operate as is until a special election next year. This time, McMahon said, it will be handled by the county Board of Elections.
“The last thing we need is another legal hassle in our little village,” he said.