Gooning It Up In Elkhorn
Be careful if you live in the Elkhorn School District. Run afoul of the School Board (pictured above) and don't be surprised if you get a visit from a guy named Luca carrying a baseball bat. You see, in Elkhorn, they know how to take care of their political opponents.
Last Spring, two members of the Elkhorn School Board, Dave Ketchum and Edward Carlson, ran for office unopposed and were easily re-elected with 1603 and 1470 votes respectively. However, a last minute write-in campaign for a guy named Paul Martell (targeted primarily at Board member Edward Carlson) managed to generate approximately 243 votes. In other words, a good showing but nothing that should cause any of the incumbents to lose any sleep.
Under normal circumstances, this would have been the end of it. However, in Elkhorn the School Board doesn't seem to like dissent.
For the past ten years, Steve Hensel has volunteered as the head coach of the Elkhorn Middle School 7th grade football team. By all accounts, Hensel has done a good job and is generally well thought of within the community.
Prior to the last election, Hensel sent out an e-mail supporting the write-in candidacy of Paul Martell. In the e-mail, Hensen argued that the incumbents had become entrenched and that it was time for "new people, new blood". In other words, as political discourse goes, Hensel's e-mail was pretty mild. This however is Elkhorn where thou shalt not dare cross the School Board!
To that point, last week Hensel received a voice mail from Elkhorn High School Athletic Director Dean Wilson. Here's what Wilson had to say:
"Steve Hensel, this is Dean Wilson. I didn't want to leave a message with this, I wanted to talk to you, but that's not happening. Okay, a couple of things. Number one, as far as you coaching 7th grade football, I got the word from Wescott [DIstrict Administrator Greg Wescott] - and this is based on the Martell letter and the Carlsons things - that he would not allow me to allow you to coach 7th grade football. It's a loyalty thing and all of this stuff, and I talked to him about it and argued with him and it was like, 'Nope, it's a done deal.' And I know how much you enjoyed it and I know how good you've done because I like you coaching kids. Anyway, that's where we are right now as far as the coaching situation."
What an embarrassment. If District Administrator Greg Wescott (pictured below) really ordered the axing of Hensel, he should be ashamed. At best, this certainly wasn't a high character moment for a guy charged with shaping impressionable youngsters.
Think about what appears to have happened here. A dedicated, well-liked volunteer supports a write-in candidate and the District Administrator orders him dumped! It makes you wonder what the penalty would be for actually circulating nominating papers? Perhaps a Nancy Kerrigan style baseball bat to the knees.
Aside from being a gross abuse of power, this tawdry incident raises a number of serious questions. Was a quorum of the School Board involved in the plot to can Hensel and, if so, were State Open Meeting laws violated? If there wasn't concerted activity on the part of the School Board, why was the District Administrator ordering the firing of supporters of the Board's political opponents and who was he acting at the behest of?
I admit that I'm somewhat surprised that District Administrator Greg Wescott and and Athletic Director Dean Wilson handled this in such a ham-handed fashion. Normally if you're going to shaft someone, you don't leave a voicemail. This tells me that in Elkhorn, they are either novices when it comes to gooning it up - or they are so comfortable in their positions that they don't care if people know about their behavior.
I'll leave it for the Walworth County District Attorney to decide whether this matter needs to be investigated to determine if laws were violated. At a very minimum however, Steve Hensel should be invited back to coach football - with a formal apology.
Moreover, the next time elected officials and bureaucrats in Elkhorn are tempted to abuse their power like this, they would do well to remember that things didn't end well for either the Corleone family or the Sopranos.