A local citizen is demanding the resignation of Madison City Councilman Joe DiLetto. Theresa Bishop, a local shop owner, appeared before the Madison Mayor and City Council Monday evening, with several other citizens echoing support for her case, asking for DiLetto to immediately resign from the council and for the Mayor and City Council to join her in asking for his resignation. However, DiLetto did not resign nor did the council take a stance, but asked for more time to consider Bishop’s allegations.
“I am not going to respond to your letter one way or the other,” said Madison Mayor Fred Perriman. “Asking this council to vote on his resignation tonight, I wouldn’t ask our council to do that tonight. Just as you had a year-and-half to come forward to this council, we also need time to take this into consideration.”
Bishop’s resignation request for DiLetto was prompted by alleged ethic violations by the councilman—including threats, bullying, sexism, and bias against her and other “concerned citizens” who criticized DiLetto.
Bishop’s complaint stems from an email DiLetto penned last year after a particularly contentious public meeting regarding Madison’s Comprehensive Planning Process. In an email from DiLetto on April 10, 2017, he wrote to City Planner Monica Callahan after that public meeting in which she received harsh criticism from several attendees.
“I apologize for not aggressively attacking the barbs thrown at you tonight,” wrote DiLetto. “I have been asked to bite my tongue and not create a situation that might be construed as bias in dealing with the NIMBYS. However, I should have come over the counter with Theresa [Bishop] this evening and am sorry I did not, especially when the comp plan process was challenged. I need to come up a way to leverage the public against them and I will.”
Bishop first took her complaint to the police department, but no charges were brought against DiLetto.
“He threatened me by name and it was not hyperbole,” said Bishop at Monday’s meeting. “In that email, he expressed a desire to physically harm me and a regret that he did not.”
Bishop also alleges that DiLetto targeted her during public meetings and online.
“In a Facebook post, he ridiculed local citizens and referenced me by my address. He also showed bias against the ‘NIMBYS’ and he vowed to ‘leverage the public against them.’ That is a clear ethical problem,” said Bishop.
NIMBY is an acronym for “Not In My Back Yard” and refers to a person who objects to the siting of something perceived as unpleasant or potentially dangerous in their own neighborhood.
“Councilman DiLetto steadfastly refused to take our concern seriously and offer an apology. He repeatedly joked about it and showed an arrogant disdain for me and the citizens who dared to question his actions,” said Bishop. “It is a very sad state of affairs when a member of the City Council can threaten a female resident with no repercussion—and with the full approval and consent of the Mayor and additional city council members.”
Bishop alleged that DiLetto singled her out and took aim at her because she is a woman and more vulnerable than other citizens who critiqued city leadership, such as George Warren, who also spoke against Monica Callahan at the same meeting as Bishop, which prompted DiLetto’s e-mail.
“I feel that Councilman DiLetto’s written threat against me was a form of sexist discrimination…No person should be the target of a bully who uses his power and position to intimidate or threaten a woman (or anyone) he perceives to be weaker than he…Councilman DiLetto directed his attack at me because I have no doubt he saw me as an easy target and merely a weak female to be toyed with,” said Bishop.
DiLetto’s response to Bishop’s allegations was met with interruptions, boos and jeers from the crowd.
“I regret what I thought was a private comment to Ms. Callahan because I felt like she had been abused that night,” began DiLetto.
“Abused by whom?” interjected Bishop.
“You,” said DiLetto to Bishop. “If you felt uncomfortable and threatened…I have been there before, I know what that feels like.”
“You have been a female threatened by city council person?” interrupted Bishop.
“I have been threatened way beyond what you can imagine. I never wanted anybody to feel that way. Never…had there not been an open records to pull that, nobody would have ever known that. It was between Monica and I. I didn’t know there was a problem until the police chief said there was…I honestly and sincerely apologize for any discomfort you have felt.”
“So if no one found out, then it would be OK?” shot back Bishop.
Diletto’s apology did not sit well with the crowd either as people began shouting out and booing during DiLetto’s remarks.
“You’re sorry because you were caught. You’re sorry because it was made public. You are not sorry that you did it. You thought it was private. You are sorry that it was made public,” said Bishop.
Mayor Perriman banged his gavel several times to restore order to the room and reminded the crowd that only DiLetto and Bishop held the floor. When Mel Bowman called out that he concurred with Bishop’s complaints, Perriman stuck up for DiLetto’s reputation.
“There are about 4,000 people in our city and there are probably about four percent in this room tonight, and not everyone has the same attitude as you do toward our council member,” said Perriman. “I think people in this community still respect Mr. DiLetto.
Councilwoman Chris Hodges urged everyone to learn from the situation.
“We as elected officials are held to a higher standard and you are right about that. I think we have learned a valuable lesson—to be careful all the time about what we say and how we say it and to who we say it. I am not here to say whether or not Mr. DiLetto should resign, but I am here to say that whatever pain we caused you as a body, I am truly sorry and I know Mr. DiLetto is sorry. If we can learn from this and become better as public officials, that is one thing I can tell you that we can do.”
Bishop was not pleased with the City Council’s response.
“Quite honestly, he’s only sorry that he was caught and that it was brought out into the public and you know that, you all know that,” said Bishop, who also noted future complaints would be coming in about DiLetto from other citizens soon. “If someone exhibits the behavior that he has, he should not be on the city council. He should not. I am sure there is someone else that would do as good a job that would be happy to take his place.”
DiLetto declined to comment on whether or not he is considering resigning from the city council over Bishop’s allegations.
‘All I can say is that I believe we will work through this,” said DiLetto after the meeting.