(WFRV) – Revelations from a series of pubic-information requests have sprinkled some controversy into the race for Outagamie County executive.
An anonymous group called ‘Fact Check the Exec’ recently filed a public-information request with Outagamie County asking for current executive Tom Nelson’s swipe card information to figure out how many hours he spent working in his office last year.
The group alleges that Nelson spent only about 650 hours in his office in 2022 (an average person working 40 hours a week would reach 650 hours of work in just over four months for reference). The group alleges that Nelson only spent two hours in his office in January 2022.
“I’ve known Tom Nelson for 20 years, he’s always the hardest working, smartest guy in any room,” said Steve Thiede who is an Outagamie County supervisor. “They can’t attack his record so they’re doing this insider dark stuff, they won’t even put their names on it.”
Thiede points out that county work can be done outside of an office. The ‘Fact Check the Exec’ group has also filed a public-information request with the county for Nelson’s phone records alleging that this will show if he was doing county work while he wasn’t in the office.
At a county board meeting on Tuesday night, county supervisors received an update from the county’s attorney who said he’s working on the latest open records request and hopes to turn over the requested information by the end of the week.
Nelson wasn’t at the meeting because he was in Madison for a conference. Outagamie County executive candidate Kevin Sturn attended to learn more about the open records request.
“I am not ‘Fact Check the Exec’, I don’t know who that is or what group that is,” said Sturn who said he’s focused on running a positive campaign.
Sturn told Local Five News that he told some of his family members to avoid liking or commenting on Facebook posts from the ‘Fact Check the Exec’ group.
“It doesn’t belong on the county board agenda, it’s a campaign issue not a government issue and there’s no reason why it’s on the agenda tonight,” said Thiede. “Wherever you go Tom Nelson is there, he’s one of those guys who is everywhere.”
In a statement to Local Five News, Nelson said “Last week Tuesday (in the primary election when he earned over 50 percent of the vote), the people spoke and they endorsed my vision for a safe, prosperous and thriving Outagamie County. I will not be dragged into the mud by these baseless political attacks.”
Voters first elected Nelson to the county executive office in 2011. In that time, Nelson helped the county maintain a triple-A bond rating, lowered county taxes while keeping county services funded, and helped save a mill that was getting auctioned off to an industrial scrap dealer.
He ran for the Wisconsin U.S. Senate seat last year. Thiede said he didn’t think that campaign impacted his focus on county matters pointing to his accomplishments in Outagamie County. Others disagree and have criticized Nelson for simultaneously launching campaigns while holding the nonpartisan county executive position.
“Kevin brings a better resume to the table as far as being an administrator and manager, not a politician,” said Outagamie County board chair Jeff Nooyen who has endorsed Sturn for Outagamie County executive.
Nooyen said that a county executive shouldn’t delve into politics and needs to focus on county matters because there’s so much work to get done.
Kevin Sturn makes a living by farming, driving a school bus in Hortonville, and plowing roads in the town of Ellington. For four years, he was the county’s Finance Committee Chairman and was on the county board for eight years.
“I’m committed to showing up for work, keeping regular office hours, I’m committed to serving the full four-year term I’m not going to run for another political office in between,” said Sturn. “My complete focus is going to be on Outagamie County.”
Sturn said he has a track record of being able to work with anybody and put political beliefs aside. He said staff retention and morale are two of the biggest issues facing the county right now and that he wants to immediately address these issues if elected.
“I see this (running for county executive) as a give back to the community, I have the knowledge and the experience and I think that we need a change in leadership here in Outagamie County,” said Sturn.