When the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board endorsed Republican Harley Pothoff for his bid to join the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors last year, we did so with the hope that adding a newcomer to the three-person board would provide a much-needed recalibration and restore some civility.

But after hearing Supervisor Ann McDonough rail this past week about her treatment on the board, clearly no such transformation has happened. While the supervisors manage to address the county’s business with relative effectiveness, the interpersonal dynamics on the board are utterly dysfunctional.

Things need to change.

McDonough on Monday accused fellow Supervisor Jay Wickham of a pattern of harassing, insulting and belittling her for years. The two Democratic supervisors regularly clash during discussions at meetings, but McDonough says the issues go beyond that, calling it harassment and an attempt to diminish her role.

Wickham dismissed the accusations as unjust attacks and implied that it was McDonough who at a recent closed session meeting was screaming and throwing papers.

What are we doing here, people?

The dysfunction has been on display at meetings for years.

When McDonough joined the board in 2018, her comments and questions were often ignored, with Wickham and then-Supervisor Dave Baker, also a Democrat, proceeding to vote without addressing her concerns and sometimes without even a comment.

It was witnessing that sort of disrespect and lack of decorum that compelled Pothoff to run for a seat on the board. Since then, there has been broader discussion before voting, but Pothoff agrees that there have been comments that he considered inappropriate.

McDonough even raised the specter of the county being legally liable for Wickham’s “toxic” behavior.


If supervisors are unable to conduct themselves in a civil manner, talk through differences and refrain from snide comments, they have no business serving in public office. That should be the bare minimum expected from all members of this board. Screaming and throwing papers in closed session is no way to act, either.

The board’s current chairwoman, McDonough suggested that Pothoff step into the role of board chairman, and we wholeheartedly agree. As such, he could change the tone and tenor of the meetings and make sure that all voices are heard. He could call out and shut down inappropriate comments. Pothoff’s 30-year career in law enforcement should serve him well in diffusing contentious situations.

Wickham and McDonough will both be up for re-election in 2022. That gives them several months to actively engage in improving board dynamics. If that doesn’t happen, voters can decide whether this slate of supervisors is the best representation for Dubuque County.

Editorials reflect the consensus of the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board.

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