BURLINGTON — Former Racine County Register of Deeds Tyson Fettes, who is also on the Burlington Town Board, said he plans to plead not guilty to all charges after he was arrested in a prostitution sting.
He was arrested in Winnebago County, Illinois, and is charged with two felony counts of patronizing a prostitute and two misdemeanor counts of soliciting a prostitute.
“My intent is to enter pleas of not guilty to all charges against me. I ask that the public withhold judgment until the case is processed through the justice system,” Fettes said in a text to The Racine Journal Times. “I’m working closely with my attorney to ensure the facts are all brought to light and a proper result is achieved.”
Between March 9 and May 29, police in Rockford, Illinois, investigated two Rockford lingerie shops — Chantilly Lace, 106 Seventh St., and Exclusive Lingerie Boutique, 77 Seventh St. — Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross said during an Aug. 20 news conference.
The investigation resulted in the arrest of the owner of Chantilly Lace, 57-year-old Peggy D. Smith, who was charged with 12 counts of promoting a place of prostitution. During the news conference, Hite Ross also read the names and birth dates of 27 men who were facing charges for soliciting and patronizing prostitutes, which included Fettes.
Fettes faces charges stemming from two alleged separate encounters with prostitutes between March 9 and May 23.
In Illinois, patronizing a prostitute is a Class 4 felony and punishable with one to three years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. The maximum sentence for soliciting a sexual act in Illinois, a Class A misdemeanor, is up to one year in the Winnebago County Jail.
Community State Bank has announced that Fettes has been suspended from his position at the bank, where he served as market president at the Community State Bank branch in Burlington.
“At Community State Bank, we are committed to integrity in our service to our customers, employees and communities,” Community State Bank President Scott Huedephl said in a statement to The Journal Times. “We take the charges issued this week against Tyson Fettes very seriously and have suspended his employment as we secure more information.”
At the time of his resignation from the county in April, Fettes said that he was excited to begin a job at Community State Bank, where his family has strong ties.
“My grandmother and father were longtime employees, and Community State Bank has always been a huge part of my life, and feels like a second family to me,” Fettes said of his new position in April. “In addition, working in my hometown allows me to spend more time with my family. The opportunity to serve my hometown in this role was too good to pass up.”
Fettes stepped down as the Racine County register of deeds in April in order to take the bank job.
A lifelong Burlington resident, Fettes was appointed as the county’s register of deeds by then-Gov. Scott Walker in 2011. He was one of 20 people who applied to replace Jim Ladwig, who stepped down after being elected county executive.
Fettes was elected in his own right in 2012 and re-elected in 2016.
Fettes was elected to the Burlington Town Board in 2007.
Town Chairman Ralph Rice said he was unaware of the charges against Fettes.
“As long as I’ve known him, this doesn’t seem possible,” Rice said. “This comes as a complete surprise.”
Rice declined to comment further until he learned more.
Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave declined to comment on Fettes’ arrest.