A township tax assessor in Clinton County is facing a backlash after calling a woman an expletive on Twitter while arguing over the GOP tax plan.
Chris Wellen, elected tax assessor for Lookingglass Township in April, was under fire Friday morning after the tweet, in which he called Bess Kalb, an Emmy-nominated writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live, the “c-word,” a crude slang term referring to female genitalia.
The tweet, posted at 5:01 p.m. Thursday, racked up hundreds of comments by Friday morning.
Wellen’s tweet was a response to a tweet from Kalb that said:
“The @GOP prefers you say “Merry CHRISTMAS” instead of “Happy HOLIDAYS” and if you’re addressing a middle-class family, please say it SARCASTICALLY and then extinguish your cigar on the smallest child’s head.”
Wellen responded to the tweet, saying “You are one dumb (expletive)!!!”
In an interview Friday morning, Wellen said he called Kalb the c-word because she was talking about putting cigars out on children’s heads, not over her views on tax reform.
People began commenting on Wellen’s response, calling it inappropriate since Wellen is an elected official.
Wellen is a tax assessor for the township that includes Damiansville, Albers and New Baden. Wellen ran as an independent in the April election and his term is set to end in 2021.
“I’m sure the Clinton County, Illinois Assessor’s Office would like to know how you treat women online. I’ll be sure to send them an email with a screenshot,” one user said.
Another man, Nick Laparra, of Nashville, Tennessee, responded to Wellen’s tweet.
I have a right to protect my children. This guy is a coward and he hides behind a keyboard. I’m out in the public eye all the time.
Chris Wellen, Lookingglass Township tax assessor
“Hi Chris! I’ve taken a screen shot of your tweet and I’ll be emailing it to your colleagues and your boss tomorrow. Cheers!”
The lawyer for the village of Albers, Terry Bruckert, said while Wellen is an employee of the township and not of the village, the mayor and clerk alerted the township supervisor of the incident and encouraged him to take action.
“All the officials are appalled by what has happened. We do not condone his activity in any way shape or form. The mayor and clerk have spoken to his supervisor to take action against him,” Bruckert said.
Township Supervisor Mark Hoffman was not immediately available for comment.
Township supervisors are not actually in charge of township tax assessors, who are elected separately. A township tax assessor’s only real boss is the voters.
The Twitter debate continued on Friday morning.
Wellen, 40, responded to Laparra’s tweet, asking if he shared, “The entire screenshot or just the part your liberal side wants people to see? One thing is for sure, the truth hurts doesn’t it?”
Laparra responded to the tweet, saying, “Keep trying to make it better. This has nothing to do with what she or anyone said. You worship a sex addict and man-child with a 5 yr olds vocabulary. Naturally, (expletive)’ is something you feel OK calling someone. I feel so bad for your wife and daughter.”
Wellen said Friday morning that Laparra, who is the host of a podcast, should not have involved his children.
“I have a right to protect my children. This guy is a coward and he hides behind a keyboard. I’m out in the public eye all the time,” Wellen said in an interview Friday. “To me, I’m thinking these guys are into abusing children and he’s defending her for that.”
I feel so bad for his wife and daughter.
Podcast host Nick Laparra
A few minutes into the interview with a Belleville News-Democrat reporter, Wellen abruptly said he was not aware the conversation was on the record and did not want it to be.
Laparra responded to Wellen’s comments in an interview Friday morning.
“What he just said is completely irrational, it made no sense,” Laparra said. “A quick perusal of his timeline shows he values voices that are unhinged or not credible. He retweeted Steven Bannon, who is not a good communicator or role model for anyone. This guy I don’t even know, I never assumed anything about him. This guy makes no sense at all.”
Wellen also said a person who commented on his Facebook page, which he changed to a private setting on Friday morning, crossed the line by posting a screenshot of Wellen’s tweet on a picture of his son’s birthday.
“I feel that anyone who would involve my children and a birthday photo in a conversation is a very evil human being. Just tell him that when you involve a 9-year-old boy’s birthday picture, you’re not a man. You’re not even a human, in my opinion,” Wellen said.
Laparra said he responded to Wellen because he believes in holding people accountable for abusive actions.
“Anyone that would go on Twitter and call a woman that, I don’t have to know anything about your personal life to know you have terrible standards for women. I feel bad for his wife and daughter,” he said.
All the officials are appalled by what has happened. We do not condone his activity in any way shape or form.
Village of Albers attorney Terry Bruckert
According to Illinois law, elected officials cannot be terminated unless they are convicted of a felony that relates to the office they hold.
In order to become a county tax assessor, candidates must fulfill various requirements including obtaining a Certified Illinois Assessing Officer certificate issued by the Illinois Property Assessment Institute.
Wellen does not work for the Clinton County supervisor of assessments. That office issued this statement: “Pursuant to 60 ILCS 1/77-5 of the Township Code, Township Assessors are elected officials by their individual County Townships and have powers and duties as provided in the Property Tax Code. The Office of the Supervisor of Assessments and the County of Clinton Illinois therefore do not hire, nor employ, Township Assessors. The Chief County Assessing Official of Clinton County may at times be provided necessary assessment information from Township Assessors, but the Chief County Assessing Official of Clinton County is not the supervisor of Township Assessors.”