UPDATE: Bill Folk issued the following statement, "I find Gallaher's comments outrageous. I know the person in question snapped a few photos, which I have seen and we know for a fact that the recallers took at least 4 photos. It is clear from the photos that the person is not in the parking lot...never entered the parking lot so how is it that he "ran through the parking lot" and "almost back(ed) over a retired police officer"...was the retired officer in the road way?!?
"It's time for the recallers to stop fabricating facts about the pro-Walker movement and get on with trying trying to overturn the will of the people of Wisconsin."
ORIGINAL STORY: Local efforts to gather enough signatures to trigger a recall of Gov. Scott Walker have been met with anger and allegations from both the Democrats and Republicans, according to a story by the Racine Journal Times.
But one confrontation became particularly heated, which involved an unnamed Racine County Republican Party member and Tom Simons, a retired detective, according to Kelly Gallaher, a community organizer for Community for Change.
On Saturday, several people collecting signatures for the recall were parked in the All Sports parking lot, located at 3458 Rapids Drive, when a man driving a Lexus drove into the parking lot and almost struck Simons, Gallaher said.
Bill Folk, chairman of the Republican Party of Racine County, said the member of the Republican Party, who did not want to be named, admitted that he had “probably taken things too far.” But Folk explained that he was only aware of a verbal confrontation.
Folk said he’s advising his Republican members not to confront petitioners, but to talk to the businesses about their decision to let petitioners on their property.
“Whether they are pro/against, we’re encouraging business owners to reconsider having petitioners on their property because of how it could be perceived,” Folk said. “So we’re going with a balanced approached.”
However, Folk said he’s seen a lot of anger from both sides about the recall issue.
“There’s a lot of self-checking going on,” Folk said. “So I’m having a lot of conversations where I’m saying, ‘I understand you are bothered by this because they lied to you.’…. But collecting recall signatures is within this groups’ legal right to do. Our job is to ensure they do it within the law.”
However, the issue over whether or not the group at All Sports had permission to be in the parking lot is where this story gets a little murky. Gallaher said they had permission and that’s why they were there for hours. But Folk said the petitioners didn’t have permission from the owners and that’s why they left. Gallaher said the group left because of the confrontation between the Republican and the owner of the business.
“We called Emil Infusino after we got a number of complaints that the recall petitioners were on All Sports property,” Folk said. “They were using their lot, and claiming they had permission from owners. But the owners had clearly not given permission.”
When Simons and the group went to leave, the Republican came back to check to see if the petitioners had left. When he saw that they were still there, one of the petitioners (who turned out to be Simons) took down the man’s license plate after the two had a verbal confrontation, Folk said.
Gallaher tells the story a little differently.
“A Lexis ran through parking lot and the man (driving it) almost backed up into a retired police officer,” Gallaher said. “The man in the Lexis was yelling profanities and he had stalked the location a couple of hours prior to that.”
However, the owners of All Sports didn’t file a trespassing police report with the City of Racine Police Department. Sgt. Martin Pavilonis, public information officer, said he hasn’t found any calls listing back to that address.
“The man in the Lexis was causing so much trouble and the owner was getting mad because of what they were doing,” Gallaher said. “And I don’t blame them for changing their mind. But we left because of the Republicans and the weather, not because we didn’t have permission to be there.”
Calls made to the owners of Infusino’s, which owns All Sports and Paesano’s, were not returned and efforts were made to talk Simons, but a phone call was not received before this story was published.