An investigation into whether a longtime Madison City Council member called a local activist a vulgarity appears to be stalled, more than five months after the incident occurred and less than a week before the council member faces voters.
The council on Oct. 6 voted to pay for an independent analysis of the recording of its meeting over Zoom on Sept. 2, when Ald. Paul Skidmore, 9th District, allegedly called Shadayra Kilfoy-Flores a vulgar word generally used against women. Skidmore has denied the allegation.
The resolution approving the investigation called for it to be submitted to the council by Nov. 10 and cost no more than $10,000, and in late October, the city hired Bryan Neumeister of Phoenix-based USA Forensic to do the work at a rate of $275 an hour. The company has not yet submitted an invoice.
City Attorney Michael Haas has since said that while city staff have met with Neumeister a number of times, there’s no estimate as to when his work will be completed and Neumeister has not submitted any reports or other documents.
“It took some time to coordinate with Zoom and go through their process and make sure he had all of the available data,” Haas said last week, “and he is also in pretty serious demand nationally.”
Skidmore faces three opponents in Tuesday’s primary for the Far West Side Madison seat he’s held since 2001: Anthony “Nino” Amato, Nikki Conklin and Douglas Hyant. In a statement Wednesday, he again denied he uttered the vulgarity and expressed frustration at the investigation’s delay.
“The city’s investigation into this matter is almost three months overdue without resolution,” he said. “In the meantime, my opponents are taking advantage of the lack of resolution to continue to accuse me of making the offensive remark. I await the report from the investigation and the opportunity to independently review the evidence in order to clear my name.”
Reached by phone Tuesday, Neumeister declined to comment.
Skidmore has grown increasingly isolated on the council in recent years as the council has moved even further to the left politically and Skidmore has been outspoken in his defense of the Madison Police Department, which local activists and their allies on the council believe needs reform, more oversight or cuts.
At the time he is alleged to have uttered the vulgarity, the council had just finished approving the creation of a civilian board to oversee police and an independent police auditor, and Skidmore was the last one to speak before Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway called on Kilfoy-Flores to speak. Video of the person who said the alleged profanity did not pop up in the Zoom meeting when the word was spoken, and no one in the meeting reacted to the slur at the time it was uttered.
The incident sparked a back-and-forth among city elected leaders over their behavior, with Rhodes-Conway and council President Sheri Carter issuing a joint statement later on Sept. 2 saying that “over the past few months, the culture and civility of City Council meetings have drastically deteriorated, culminating in what appears to be the use of gender-based profanity addressed at a member of the public.”
Fourteen members of the council shot back the next day with a statement denying that there has been any broader deterioration of civility and calling on the person who uttered the alleged slur to come forward.
The day after that, Carter sent an email to her colleagues on the council in which she called out Ald. Rebecca Kemble, 18th District, for allegedly uttering expletives critical of Rhodes-Conway and her supporters, and Ald. Max Prestigiacomo, 8th District, for a “profanity-laced” post on his personal Facebook page that “incited violence and resulted in numerous calls from residents for his resignation as well.”
The post was a repost of a flier critical of police in the days after Jacob Blake was shot by a Kenosha police officer on Aug. 23.
Edgewood athletic field conflict coverage
Over the past several months, Edgewood High School, its neighbors and the city have been in a spat over whether the school should be allowed to play games on its athletic field and make upgrades including a sound system, expanded seating and lights for night games.
Madison's City Council allowed Edgewood to repeal its master plan, a move that allowed the school to host games. But the field upgrades are still up in the air.
Catch up on the major developments in the ongoing conflict:
Ald. Tag Evers said Edgewood is pursuing "a shortcut" instead of what he and neighbors see as a compromise. But Edgewood has a whole list of reasons for why that solution is "unworkable."
The Madison City Council will make the final decision on the request at its Jan. 7 meeting.
After a lack of votes, the Plan Commission again delayed a decision on whether to allow Edgewood High School to host games on its athletic field.
The Madison City Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance change closing a “loophole” that would have allowed Edgewood to make athletic field changes without city's OK.
At the end of a meeting that lasted more than seven hours, with 100 people registered to speak, the commission delayed its vote for three weeks.
The city said the Catholic school can't host games on its own athletic field, even though other high schools can. The Mayor said Madison "does not discriminate against any religion."
Last month, a board ruled the master plan prohibited matches and games from being held on the school's field. Edgewood is now seeking the master plan be repealed all together.
On Thursday, Madison’s Zoning Board of Appeals decided the school’s athletic teams can no longer play games on the school’s athletic field.
Edgewood president Michael Elliott said the school does not condone the harassment and was not aware that anyone with Edgewood was carrying it out.
The Near West Side private school hosted a girls soccer game on Tuesday, with more scheduled, amid a bitter debate with residents about proposed improvements to its field.
School officials said this week that they'll postpone construction on field improvements for six weeks to "engage in a constructive dialogue with our neighbors."
The original proposal would have required approval by the city's Plan Commission. Lighting and sound systems are regulated by city ordinances, so the school will just need to meet those regulations.
Many neighbors continue to be opposed, saying compromise has come late and that the school has misrepresented a main reason for needing a stadium.
Ald. Allen Arntsen said he'll support a proposed stadium at Edgewood High School if daytime use of the athletic field is capped at uses in place for 2018, and if the use of lights is limited to a five events per year.
Dozens of yard signs near the private high school's campus on the Near West Side show opposition to the upgrades, despite the school's assurances that the lighting and sound system wouldn't be disruptive.
Edgewood High School's proposed $1 million, 1,200-seat stadium has generated neighborhood concerns about lighting, sound system and crowd noise, traffic, parking, uses and an impact on property values.