In Re: Petition Pursuant To § 66.0301(6)(C)(2), Wis. Stats., For A Referendum To Disapprove The Intermunicipal Cooperation Agreement Between The Town Of Paris And Village Of Somers Approved On April 7, 2016 And Published On April 14, 2016.
CERTIFICATE OF INSUFFICIENCY
On April 29, 2016, I was served with thirteen petition pages seeking to hold a referendum on the recent intermunicipal agreement between the Town of Paris and Village of Somers, which was published on April 14, 2016. I refrained from undertaking anything more than a cursory review of any of the petitions at that time because, by law, additional petition signatures could have been submitted anytime until May 13, 2016, and also because it is my understanding that correction affidavits could have been submitted for three additional days beyond that date. That being the case, I waited to closely examine the petitions until after I knew they were, in fact, complete. Not only did this ensure that I would not have to duplicate my efforts, but it also gave the circulators every opportunity to make sure that the petitions were in the form they intended.
REVIEW AND EXAMINATION OF PETITIONS
I have reviewed and examined the petitions, and the petitions themselves appear to be in proper form.
The thirteen petitions contain 90 signatures in total. Of these, two signers’ signatures were repeated, as both Nada and Tomislav Djakovic each signed petitions on April 16th and again on April 27th. Therefore two of the Djakovics’ four signatures were disregarded. Another petition entry, the last one on the 4/25/16 petition, which was submitted by Joseph Kolnik, is so indecipherable, in terms of signature, printed name, and address, that I am unable to discern any meaningful information from it at all, so that signature, too, was rejected. Additionally, based on my own personal knowledge of certain individual petition signers, I have doubts as to whether five more petition signatures are, indeed, those of qualified Town of Paris electors, but because information appearing on the petitions is presumed to be accurate, and because the petition circulators attested that all signers are qualified Paris electors, I am nevertheless treating those five signatures as being valid. Therefore, in all, I found 87 qualified signatures on the thirteen petition pages.
CERTIFICATION OF INSUFFICIENCY
The statute in question provides, in section 66.0301(6)(c)(2), that, “A referendum shall be held if, within 30 days after the publication of the agreement, a petition for a referendum conforming to the requirements of s. 8.40, signed by at least 20 percent of the electors residing within the territory whose jurisdiction is subject to change as a result of the agreement is filed, in accordance with s. 8.37, with the clerk of each municipality that is a party to the agreement.” Therefore, in order to trigger a referendum on the intermunicipal agreement, the 87 qualified petition signatures that were submitted would have to be at least 20 percent of “the electors residing within the territory whose jurisdiction is subject to change as a result of the agreement…”
Last year, the Village of Somers and the Town of Somers entered into an intermunicipal agreement under the exact same statutory section as the current agreement between the Town of Paris and the Village of Somers. With respect to the Somers-Somers agreement, the Somers Clerk read the statutory language “the territory whose jurisdiction is subject to change” to mean the entire Town of Somers. The Somers’ determination was based on the language in the statute and the fact that the agreement would have a significant impact on not just those property owners that would be moved, but also on the entire town. Somers’ determination that the referendum threshold applied to the entire town, and not just to the specific areas that would be moved, was appealed to the State of Wisconsin Government Accountability Board by a Somers resident. The GAB reviewed the question and concluded, just a few months ago, that Somers’ interpretation of the statutory referendum threshold language neither violated election law nor represented an abuse of discretion.
Given this history and, even more importantly, the specific determination made by GAB just a few months ago, I conclude, as did Somers’ Clerk, that the threshold against which the number of petition signatures must be measured is the number of electors in the entire Town of Paris, which I believe is 1,037. This interpretation is consistent with the approach that Somers took, it is consistent with the recent GAB determination, and it also simply makes sense, given the fact that the proposed Paris-Somers agreement will have a significant impact on all Town residents, not just those residents who are subject to being moved.
The 87 qualified petition signatures that were submitted falls well short of the 208-elector threshold required by the statute. Therefore, it is my determination that the petitions that were submitted on April 29, 2016 are insufficient to require a referendum on the intermunicipal agreement between the Town of Paris and the Village of Somers described above.
Certified at the Town of Paris this 20th day of May, 2016.
TOWN OF PARIS
Beverly McCumber, Town Clerk