Gillett alderman candidate charged with election fraud
Joan Koehne email@example.com
A Gillett man has been charged with election fraud for allegedly declaring his candidacy despite being convicted of a felony drug offense.
Mark R. Bloemers, 59, made an initial appearance Thursday in Oconto County Circuit Court on one count of felony false swearing, a second count of election fraud — providing false information to election official, and a third misdemeanor count of obstructing an officer. The offenses allegedly occurred Jan. 5 in Gillett when Bloemers registered as a candidate for the Ward 3 seat in the April 7 election.
On the declaration of candidacy form, candidates must swear they have not been convicted of a felony in any court in the U.S. for which they have not been pardoned.
According to a criminal complaint filed Aug. 31, City Clerk Beth Rank became aware of a felony conviction in which Bloemers was found guilty of possession of THC with intent to deliver, party to a crime, in 1996 in Manitowoc County. Two other felony charges were dismissed.
Rank spoke with representatives of the state Government Accountability Board, Oconto County Assistant District Attorney Robert Mraz and City Attorney Tim Schmid about the felony conviction. According to the complaint, Rank “wished to pursue the matter further as there was concern that if Bloemers ran for City Council again, this could be an issue in the future.”
Bloemers referred questions to his lawyer, who did not return a call by deadline, but told the Times Herald, “A lot of it’s got to do with the regime that’s in Gillett. They don’t want anyone upsetting their apple cart.”
He said city officials don’t want residents to “speak their mind.”
Mayor Irene Drake declined to comment, saying she would wait until the case goes to trial.
Oconto County Circuit Court Judge Jay Conley set a $2,500 signature bond and scheduled a preliminary hearing for Nov. 10. If convicted of false swearing, Bloemers faces a maximum sentence of six years imprisonment and a fine of $10,000. For election fraud, the maximum sentence is three years, six months imprisonment and a fine of $10,000.
Bloemers’ obstructing an officer charge allegedly occurred June 15, the same day that Bloemers and Don Ellsworth, also a candidate in Gillett’s spring election, were issued municipal disorderly conduct citations for making vulgar comments about Alderperson Deborah Erickson and Police Chief Jess Keplinger.
According to a Gillett Police Department report, Erickson was discussing city business with Keplinger on June 9 on her patio in her backyard, across from Ellsworth’s residence, when the men made the comments. Although the men were not speaking directly to Keplinger and Erickson, their comments were overheard over the hedge.
On July 29, Bloemers and Ellsworth pleaded not guilty in Gillett municipal court. They were found guilty at a trial in municipal court on Sept. 3 and fined $376. Ellsworth did not appeal the citation, but Bloemers appealed to Oconto County Circuit Court, where he is set to appear for a pretrial conference Oct. 26.