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July 22, 2014 | 04:57 PMRonald M. Carstensen, former Lake Geneva street superintendent, and Donald A. Hoeft Jr., former Lake Geneva street department foreman, both appeared in Walworth County Circuit Court on Tuesday for their initial appearance.
The two men face a series of felony and misdemeanor charges, including theft and misconduct in office in connection with the alleged illegal transfer of sand and salt intended for city streets to private companies, including B&J Tree & Landscaping, town of Geneva, and creation of a street department slush fund with money from recycling used motor oil and metals from the city.
Both appeared in Judge David Reddy’s courtroom in response to summonses. Neither were arrested or taken into police custody before their court appearance.
Both left on $10,000 signature bond each, with a list of persons they were not to contact as a condition of bond.
Hoeft, 64, is represented by Dennis Coffey of Milwaukee. Carstensen, 55, appeared with attorney Patrick Cafferty of Racine.
The two will be back in court for their preliminary hearing at 3 p.m. Sept. 5. Although they are not co-defendants, their attorneys agreed to having the preliminary hearings on the same day.
The salt and sand transfers to B&J and C&D Landscaping, town of Geneva, were supposedly in exchange for supplies and services for the city by the two companies, according to the criminal complaint. However, neither the street department nor the landscaping companies kept track of the sand and salt transferred to the landscapers, nor the materials and services reciprocated to the city.
The charges come from an investigation into the street department by the Lake Geneva Police Department, the Walworth County Sheriff’s office and the Wisconsin Department of Justice that started in October.
Annie Jay of the state Attorney General’s office represented the prosecution.
Most on the no-contact list are current employees of the street department, City Administrator Dennis Jordan, Dan Winkler, who is public works director and utility director; and Peg Pollitt, city comptroller.
Cafferty raised just one minor exception to a name on the no-contact list, that of Bill Hill.
Hill was named in the criminal complaint as the foreman at B&J Tree & Landscaping. Cafferty said that Hill and Carstensen have incidental contact at a machine repair shop where Carstensen works.
Reddy allowed the no-contact list to be amended and Jay did not object. However, Carstensen cannot contact Hill at his home or his place of employment, Reddy said.
Carstensen is charged with three counts of theft from a business setting between $2,500 and $5,000; one count of theft from a business setting $5,000 to $10,000 and one count of theft from a business setting of $10,000 or more, and two counts of misconduct in office, all felonies.
According to the Attorney General’s office, Carstensen is accused of giving away more than $25,000 worth of salt and sand to private companies between 2009 and 2013 while working as street superintendent.
Carstensen also is charged with cashing and keeping a $20.06 sales tax refund check meant for the city after buying a scanner for the street department, a misdemeanor.
Carstensen resigned from the street department in December.
If convicted on all counts, Carstensen faces a maximum of 34 years and three months in prison and fines totaling $95,000.
Hoeft is facing two felony counts of misconduct in office and one felony count of theft from a business setting between $2,500 and $5,000.
He was also charged with three misdemeanors, two of theft from a business setting of $2,500 or less and one misdemeanor count of encouraging a parole or probation violation.
The charges against Hoeft are based on incidents occurring between March 2012 and May 2013.
Hoeft was removed as interim superintendent after a closed meeting of the city council’s personnel committee on June 16. Hoeft retired from city employment shortly thereafter. If convicted on all counts, Hoeft faces a maximum of 12 years and nine months in prison.