Tammy Peters was just doing her job, taking minutes for the Madison Common Council on July 7. Then something unexpected happened.
"All of a sudden, I saw this big hand coming at my face," says Peters, the council clerk.
The hand belonged to Ald. Tim Bruer, the council's president, who was acting mayor in the absence of Dave Cieslewicz. "He made what I considered to be a very startling and improper gesture at me -- a swatting gesture."
The gesture, which Bruer made while seated next to Peters, happened about 31 minutes into the meeting.
"It took every bit of self-composure for me to sit there and do my job and not just walk right out," says Peters, who was unnerved long after the meeting. "I don't think I slept more than two hours that night."
She adds, "I just thought it was inappropriate behavior for someone who calls himself deputy mayor to do during a public hearing." (Peters didn't contact Isthmus about the complaint, but responded to questions about it.)
In the morning Peters told her boss, City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl, who filed a complaint against Bruer. This was investigated but dismissed by the City Attorney's Office, which found Bruer's gesture "neither violent nor aggressive."
In his report, Assistant City Attorney Roger Allen wrote that Bruer, on reviewing the tape, "vaguely recalled gesturing. He stated that he became confused at that point in the meeting and was somewhat overwhelmed by multiple people speaking to him at once. He may have gestured sort of as a 'brush off' to indicate he was confused."
Bruer is reluctant to speak on the record about the matter, except to say that Allen exonerated him. "I'm in sort of an awkward position because it's part of a much bigger problem going on with the Clerk's Office," he says.
Allen's report underscores this point: "It is clear to me that the relationship between certain individuals in the Clerk's Office and the Common Council Office have produced an undesirable working environment" that is hindering "the city's ability to do the public's business in a professional and expeditious manner."
Peters is disgusted with how the complaint was handled. "I will in the future never report something like that again," she says, "because I feel like I was humiliated twice, and told I overreacted."