Recall committee calls Franklin alderwoman a 'wicked witch' in flier

Alderwoman Evans responds, calls accusations 'all lies'

This flier was distributed to residents in Franklin's District 4, where a political committee is promoting a recall of Alderwoman Janet Evans.

This flier was distributed to residents in Franklin's District 4, where a political committee is promoting a recall of Alderwoman Janet Evans. Photo By Submitted flier

March 26, 2015

Franklin — Some residents in the city's District 4 have received fliers that depict Alderwoman Janet Evans as "The Wicked Witch of Franklin" this week.

The flier, produced by the Franklin Exploratory Recall Committee, seeks to recall the Evans, who was elected last year.

On the flier, a photo of Evans was laid over an image of a witch from the "Wizard of Oz." The group also listed grievances against Evans, declaring she "championed" for an apartment complex in the district that would bring forth more crime to the area.

The flier reads, "Let's get an elected representative who will listen to and speak for constituents in Franklin's 4th District."

For her part, Evans took exception to what she felt was a misrepresentation of facts.

"Everything on this flier is twisting the truth; it's all lies," Evans told Now Newspapers. "But this is what these (angry) people do when they don't have any legitimate claims against someone."

Apartment controversy

The recall committee primarily criticizes Evan's stance on the proposed 103-unit Hickory Grove apartment complex from late last year. The apartments would be situated near 51st Street and Cobblestone Way — property surrounded by condominiums.

Evans — along with Aldermen Doug Schmidt and Mark Dandrea — voted to amend the city's comprehensive master plan on Jan. 6 to begin discussion about future multifamily developments of the property. Alderwoman Susanne Mayer's abstention at the meeting put the project on hold.

Nearby residents of the proposed apartment complex criticized Evans for not listening to her constituents.

"Our main reason for recalling Evans is her lack of representation of her constituents regarding the apartment complex," said Orville Seymer, an organizer of the recall committee. "Aldermen Kristin Wilhelm and Dan Mayer did a better job of representing District 4 than she did."

Seymer, a well-known organizer of recall efforts, said there are about six people in the Recall Exploratory Committee. Seymer is a leading figure with Citizens for Responsible Government, a fiscally conservative political group.

The group's main opposition to the apartments stem from worries that the complex would lead to more crime in Franklin.

"(The developer) promised high-quality apartments, but over time, they would deteriorate because people would move out of them for newer places," said Seymer, who owns multiple rental properties himself. "In time, crime would spread from 51st Street and Ryan Road and would affect everyone in Franklin."

Evans responded to the committee's disapproval of her vote regarding the master plan change by saying she was acting in the best interest for the city.

"I never championed for the apartment complex, but the issue is that the residents aren't happy that I didn't agree with them," Evans said. "I voted for what I thought was best for the community."

The committee also claimed Evans called her constituents "selfish" when discussing the apartment complex. That claim is untrue, Evans said.

"Someone asked me that if I were one of the condo owners in the area, would I vote in favor of this apartment complex," Evans said. "I said that I would (abstain) from the vote, because it would be selfish of me to vote one way or the other" due to a conflict of interest.

Escort services

The recall committee also accuses Evans of passing ordinances last year that, the group believes, allow for legal prostitution and other illicit activity.

"Don't we have enough problems with the motels along 27th Street?" the committee's flier asks.

However, the two ordinances related to the committee's allegations were tied to a request from the city's police department to help establish a legal definition for both "escort services" and "certified massage therapists and bodyworkers."

According to the police department request, "An ordinance regulating and licensing escorts and escort services would be a beneficial tool for deterring and minimalizing illegal activities ... and will help prevent prostitution and other associated crimes."

Evans led the initiative to pass those ordinances. Similar ordinances have been approved in nearby communities.

"The clear intent of these ordinances are to minimalize illicit activity in this community," said Franklin Police Chief Rick Oliva.

Michelle Borreson, the committee's treasurer and Seymer's daughter, said she was unaware of the police department's request for the ordinances.

"I just don't think (the ordinances) are something that Franklin needs," Borreson said.

No licenses have been given by the city for escort services.

School board campaign

The push to recall Evans from the common council comes right before the spring election, in which she is seeking re-election to her seat on the Franklin School Board. (Evans is the acting school board president.)

"The timing was intentional," said Seymer. "We wanted to expose the fact that she isn't a representative of her constituents."

Borreson admitted she had a vested interest in removing Evans from the board. Her sister-in-law, Jessica Kent, is running against Evans for a seat on the school board. Kent also played a role in an attempt to disrupt the proposed Hickory Grove Apartments, when she presented a petition before the council with more than 100 signatures from residents against the project.

"Evans has this 'my way or the highway' attitude, and it's not good for getting things done," Borreson said. "When you don't listen to your constituents, who are you serving?"

'Witch remark'

As for the "wicked witch" remark, both Seymer and Borreson claimed it was a harmless tactic.

"There's a lot of people that are very, very upset at her, but I don't think the flier is mean-spirited," Seymer said. "It was just intended to poke a little fun at her, but if she can't handle that sort of criticism, then maybe she should just resign."

Borreson agreed with her father, saying that such criticism is part of the job.

"When you're in an elected position like that, you should expect these kind of things and take them in jest," Borreson said. "I don't really think she's an evil person."

The earliest the committee can begin collecting signatures for a recall election is April 15, after the group has submitted the necessary paperwork with the city clerk. The group will then have 60 days to collect the 741 signatures needed to establish a recall election, "which actually shouldn't be that difficult," Seymer said. "But just because you sign the petition, it doesn't mean that she's removed from office. It just means it begins the process (of a recall)."

Evans is not entertained by the flier, however.

"When you see this trash — and it is trash — call me," Evans asks her constituents. "Ask me about these accusations, and I can debunk them. There's more to (my political history) than the words that are on these fliers."

This isn't the first political flier in the city to be distributed during an election season to discredit someone. In 2014, an unregistered group called, "Franklin Citizens United," distributed fliers against mayoral candidate Basil Ryan. The fliers compared Ryan to a clown.

Seymer was quoted in the flier, calling Ryan "an embarassment to the city." Seymer later told Now Newspapers that he did not recall making that statement and denied having any involvement with the group.

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