In every war there are the front line troops, and the puppet masters behind the scenes, who profit both from the war and from its outcome. In Lake Geneva, Wisconsin between 2008 and 2011 a political conflict between land speculators, their lackeys and the People of Lake Geneva and a small environmental group caught five elected officials and two environmentalists in a political no man land.
At the apex of the real estate bubble, in 2006- 2007, a group of speculators came to Lake Geneva after being told by the Village of Williams Bay that their plans to “save” Yerkes Observatory was a definite no go. Why and who exactly encouraged them to come to the City of Lake Geneva is still a mystery, but as they say in politics “follow the money.” That battle is well documented already, this is a story of the five elected officials, two activists, and the puppeteers .
On the side of the land speculators:
The Hummel Group (Geneva Ridge Joint Ventures) and Mirbeau a privately funded group of real estate developers.
Geneva Lake Area Development Corporation. A non-profit group of local businessmen, initially funded by the taxpayers of Lake Geneva, who pay no real estate taxes and received millions of dollars in taxpayer TIF funding . Now renamed Lake Geneva Development Corp., but run by some of the same group of “good old boys” who are constantly suckling off the public tit.
Geneva Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. Another secretive non-profit group of some of the same local businessmen, who have their soot deep in the public trough. In 2010 the Township of Lyons gave them $282K of taxpayer money, and the City of Lake Geneva gave $85K, no questions asked.
Lake Geneva Regional News. Thanks to our State Legislators the local rag, by stature is given a DE-facto monopoly on local Government advertising as the “Official City Newspaper”.
On the other side of battle:
FOGAL. A small privately funded nonprofit group of local Lake Geneva and Linn township environmentalists.
The People of Lake Geneva. In a referendum on the proposed Hummel/Mirbeau development, 77% of the voters of Lake Geneva rejected the project.
Lake Geneva Politicals:
William Chesen. Former Mayor of Lake Geneva and a supporter of the Hummel project who decided to take the law in his own hands and removed four sitting Aldermen who opposed the project and tried to replace them with past defeated Aldermen who were pro- Hummel. According to Mr. Chesen he acted alone, in fact he went out of his way to insist he acted alone and that Scott Storms, his fellow police officer, had nothing to do with his actions on September 2009. Your correspondent cannot helped but be reminded of those famous lines from Shakespeare‘s Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” I have great admiration of someone who is willing to fall on his sword and take one for the team, but in this case I believe Mr. Chesen was played for the fool he is. One reputation ruined.
Mary Jo Fesenmaier, Penny Roehrer, Arleen Krohn, Tom Spellman. The four aldermen who Mr. Chesen tried to remove from office and replace with his cronies. The events from M.J. Fessimeyer as told on 8.6.12, in her own words.
“In September 2009 this city was scared by a mayor who decided to take the law in his own hands. William Chesen as a citizen filed a complaint against four sitting aldermen. And then in the next breath acted as judge and jury inappropriately involving the city’s and county’s law enforcement officers deliver orders of suspension. The proper and most efficient paths were to file the complaint with the Lake Geneva police department. Who could then investigate and send the facts to the Walworth County D.A . Why wasn’t this done? Instead using some vague statue with some powerful and knowledgeable resources Chesen thought he had found a way to circumvent the law. What happened in the months after shock the community to its core. And caused must embarrassment and division. The bottom line is this city was obligated to contact its insurance company for legal help in terms of attorneys for all sides. The city staff was negligent. It is precedent that the insurance Co. send out an attorney to represent elected officials. And the determination of coverage is made at a later time. If the insurance Co. had done this, the matter would have been quickly settled with no further commotion or cost. Instead four democratically elected aldermen were removed from their duties. They were judged guilty and sentenced first.”
Current Alderman Gary Hougen, as an outside observer, on 8.6.12 stated. “Remember that these events are intertwined with the Hummel development which was under consideration at the time.”…. “ The actions are inseparable from the Hummel development.”…. “The climate of the time was that city council was moving in one direction and the voters, that was expressed in the referendum that was held, wanted to not go in that direction. And I sort of feel that the council members were caught in that tug of war.”
Bottom line, the four democratically elected alderman in trying to defend the principle of self-government, are out a shit load of money in attorney fees, which the City’s insurance company didn’t reimburse.
Jim Connors and Dick Malmin. Two political activists who worked together on the Stop Mirbearu/Hummel group. SLAP sued in Federal Court by the developers, which was dismissed with prejudice, but they are also out a pile of money in legal fees. Mr. Connors was so liked by the citizens of Lake Geneva for stopping the Hummel Project that they elected him Mayor on his first try for public office.
Ω Special punishment was dished out to elementary school librarian Mary Jo Fesenmaier who was singled out and driven from office by the Lake Geneva Regional News over an open records request for some emails. The case started on 6.28.10 and was finally dismissed on 1.05.12, all during that period she was tried in the local newspaper on an almost weekly basis. She was tabloid “monsterized by the press”.
In the words of another elected official Teddy Roosevelt
It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the one who is actually in the arena. Whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives voluntarily, who errors and comes short again and again. Who knows the great enthusiasms. the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause. Who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement. And who at worst at least fails while doing greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and tired souls who know neither victory or defeat.