October 21, 2019 – West Bend, WI – Following a closed session during Monday’s West Bend Common Council meeting Mayor Kraig Sadownikow shocked administration and elected officials announcing he was resigning his seat effective immediately.
Sadownikow was first elected in April 2011. He was reelected in 2014 and again in 2017. His seat is up for reelection in April 2020.
Sadownikow said in a statement:
“I will be resigning as Mayor at the end of the Council meeting tonight. As you may know, I have been working hard to recruit a Marriott TownePlace and Office Building to the former Gehl HQ property.
The developers represent organizations I have worked with for more than 15 years on about a dozen hotels in multiple states along with also owning and operating office buildings together.
“I sought legal advice from the City Attorney as well as personally engaging two local law firms to give me their opinions on how to remain Mayor and have an active and personal role in the development.
None of the legal opinions are crystal clear and none of the advice sits well with me, except the option of resigning as Mayor so I am not involved with the upcoming City approval process. I am having to choose between my business life and my service life. In this case, the two scenarios cannot proceed together, and I won’t risk the good reputation of either by operating with any ambiguity.”
Sadownikow is president of American Companies in West Bend.
His career and political position were recently highlighted by WISN talk show host Mark Belling, who felt the mayor was walking a fine line with regard to the Marriott TownePlace development and his seat as mayor.
“I applaud Mark Belling for bringing up the stories he does,” said Sadownikow. “The challenge is, he was a little premature in his comments because with this particular project there really haven’t been any approvals yet; land hasn’t changed hands the deal hasn’t been completed yet.
“I knew today was going to be coming at some point. I didn’t know if I’d have to resign or not which is why I sought legal advice and at the middle and end of last week it became evident that the law is a little ambiguous. I did not get an identical answer from any of the three legal opinions I sought. None of them sat well with me or passed my gut-check test other than saying I’ve got to separate myself; I’ve got to separate my business life from my service life and the best way to maintain my own integrity and the integrity of the office and the project is for me to resign.”
Sadownikow’s term is up for reelection April 7, 2020. “My plan, since the last election, was to finish out this term and not run again, however, the legal advice I’m getting back is that the best thing to do before this project comes to fruition is to separate my mayor life from my business life,” he said.
Sadownikow said it was a hard decision. “Quite honestly I like being mayor. I think there are days where I’m pretty good at it. I just spoke to a downtown business group and at Noon Rotary today; I love that stuff. People are genuinely excited and interested to hear what’s going on in West Bend and I think it’s because we’re a very fun and active place to be right now so personally it was a hard decision but it became more and more clear from an ethical perspective it’s a pretty easy decision.”
Questioned why Sadownikow’s past development dealings involving the City haven’t stirred as much of a conflict, he said “the difference with this situation is the Marriott TownePlace project involves a city-owned parcel of property and I’m potentially personally involved.”
Sadownikow said he was “looking forward to returning full time to the private sector” but he would “leave the door open to potentially serve in another public capacity some time in the future.”
“I love being mayor. I’m a local business guy. Those two roles are about to intersect and they can’t. I really wanted to finish out my term the best thing for our community, my business, my family and the mayor’s office is to make sure I do not have any perceived conflicts of interest and just eliminate any possibility of that being the case,” he said.
Moving forward, the state has a legal process on filling the now vacant seat. It’s expected the council will call a special meeting within the next week to determine how to move forward.
Last week, October 17, Dist. 5 alderman Rich Kasten did announce his candidacy for the mayor position. That election is in April 7, 2020.
Disappointing such a good mayor had to make a decision like this. While I am sure the highest standards of ethics were always upheld, the public really lost when it came to the end result.
This is why it is tough for community leaders and achievers to be involved in public service. As a result of the endless hyper ethics torture, well qualified leaders prefer to stay away from the public service minefield. What was gained by the public here? I scratch my head and say, “maybe a new mayor that could be half as good?”
Well done Kraig, West Bend was lucky to have you. Best of luck in the future.
Very refreshing to see a politician taking a stand on ethics, as opposed to the current trend of running roughshod over ethics.