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DA will not charge for misconduct

January 12, 2011 | 09:04 AM
There will be no charges filed against Lake Geneva city staff, specifically City Administrator Dennis Jordan, for alleged violations of misconduct in public office.

Walworth County Assistant District Attorney Diane Donohoo submitted a letter to the city recently stating what was done did "not rise to the level of felony behavior."

Upon the April request by the city's Personnel Committee, the Lake Geneva Police investigated four specific allegations made by Alderwoman Mary Jo Fesenmaier, most of them against Jordan. The allegations revolved around the use of undesignated reserve funds to purchase the WE Energies building, petty cash use, payments for park benches and library credit cards.

Following the completion of the investigation, which lasted about seven months and included numerous interviews with city staff, some aldermen and others, totaling more than 40 detective working hours, the Police Department presented its findings to the District Attorney's Office.

Jordan said last week he was surprised the issue reached this level.

"I didn't think I did anything wrong," Jordan said.

Fesenmaier responded to e-mail questions regarding the dismissal of the mismanagement allegations with one word — "surprised." She did not state whether she would continue to pursue the mismanagement claims.

The allegations were made Feb. 4, 2010, during a Personnel Committee meeting. Fesenmaier discussed four separate issues which she believed should be investigated as possible mismanagement by city staff.

n Use of undesignated funds without a resolution. Fesenmaier contends the purchase and use of undesignated funds for the WE Energies property on Sheridan Springs Road should have been completed by resolution. She agreed the council supported the purchase, but the resolution was "Step B" in the process and that it requires six affirmative votes.

In her letter, Donohoo stated that was the "most serious" allegation focusing on Jordan's purchase of the property. She states that Jordan said he was following the city attorney's advice to move forward on the purchase. "I do not see how we can fault Jordan for following the advice of the municipal attorney," she stated.

n Petty cash. Fesenmaier said city policy doesn't allow for purchases of more than $25 from petty cash. However, there recently was a purchase of $48.99 from a petty cash fund. She said an outside analysis of the city's internal controls presented in December made suggestions about how to deal with petty cash.

Donohoo stated this "behavior as the type that strikes to the core of sound government. To the contrary, if I issued this as a crime, any reasonable jury would wonder why we bothered with this."

n Park bench payment. Fesenmaier said the city's Park Board approved paying for park benches, but not from the park impact fees account where she believes the funding was taken from. She also said the check for the benches was made payable to an individual, rather than the company that performed the work. Fesenmaier said that's "not appropriate."

Donohoo stated this also is "not worth pursuing." She said the park benches were purchased for the benefit of the city.

n Library credit cards. Fesenmaier showed documents from 2005 through 2008 that she said were supposed to be signed off by city staff. The credit card bills also had handwritten numbers on them, which she didn't believe could be considered a real credit card bill. The city has funded these bills through the prepaid checks, which aren't approved until after the bill already has been paid. A former library employee was found guilty last year of stealing about $100,000 from the library during the time Fesenmaier cited, most of it by using credit cards for personal purchases and cash advances.

Donohoo, who prosecuted the case against former library employee Mercedes Mogensen for the thefts, stated the city was taken advantage of by Mogensen. "Perhaps her thefts should have been discovered sooner, but I do not see that prosecuting Jordan for a felony is the wise response to that matter," Donohoo wrote.

Lake Geneva Police Chief Michael Rasmussen said typically the city would use discretion when investigating issues such as these because the department does not have enough personnel to perform these types of investigations. However, the Personnel Committee as a whole requested the in-house investigation.

Rasmussen said he also felt it was important to send all the information obtained to Donohoo for further investigation and an outside opinion.

"Was there a violation of state statue? Yes," Rasmussen said regarding the more than $400,000 purchase of the WE Energies building. "Was it criminal? No. People thought they were doing the right thing. It's a procedural thing that shouldn't happen again."

The Police Department findings also were presented last week to City Attorney Dan Draper for further review.

Several months ago, some council members wanted and outside investigation of the matters because of a possible questions regarding conflict of interest with the Police Department, but city officials agreed the investigation should be performed by the local police.

Rasmussen said he didn't believe there was any conflict of interest regarding the investigation. He said the allegations made against Jordan were mainly procedural and not political.

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