The Price of Justice or a Vendetta?

The city council on 9.28.2009 voted to hire two separate the law firms at $200/ hour plus expenses to adjudicate and prosecute at the coming hearing brought by Mayor Chesen as a private citizen against the four alderpersons he tried to suspend on 9.10.2009.

Mayor William Chesen made it quite clear that he would bring back the four suspended alderpersons if Alderman Spiro Condos would step down and hold a special election for the vacated aldermanic seat in the First District.

Mr. Chesen stated: “Four aldermen got together and decided to make a deal behind closed doors, violate opens meetings law, and appoint their friend…… I have no problem with Mr. Condos. $1200 (the price of a special election) could have avoided this problem; there could have been an election for the first district seat. Another way to avoid this problem is that Mr. Condos could have accepted my offer and he steps down and I will reseat his friends and we can have an open election. Third solution to the problem is I will step down as mayor and Mr. Condos steps down and there will be an open election for both seats. Mr. Condos rejected that offer as well.”

Mr. Condos replied. “I don’t know where these deals took place but I never have spoken to him at all. The mayor brought this on himself; he filed the complaint himself because he didn’t get his way. And then as Mayor he suspended them on his own complaint. It seems the four that get suspended are the four that don’t always agree with him…. It’s foolish (to take this to the Wisconsin Supreme Court) because the city is not in good financial shape….. This is a vendetta by the Mayor; he doesn’t like what went on. Whatever happened to the taxpayers and voters in Lake Geneva? He took it upon himself to decide for the voters and its costing money that we don’t have.”

Alderman Roehrer stated,” I have heard too many times tonight that I am accursed of holding meetings with three other alderman, I never did. I will go on the record tonight and I will go on the record in the hearings that never happened. And if you want to put the taxpayers through pain to hear it again, go right ahead.”

Lake Geneva City Attorney Dan Draper went on to explain why he retained Kyle Gulya of vonBriesen & Roper to maintain the integrity of his office and the process.

“It happened very quickly, it happened on a Thursday and I had to make a decision on Monday. …there are cases out that state if I had acted on behalf of the city in this removal action due process rights would have been violated, and we would have ended (up) in appeal and could have ended in double the fees. People have gotten used to the fact that I do my work for the salary that I’m paid; this is not one of those instances that I would have been paid my salary …..I have not created this situation; this is not a city legal matter per se …. If I had really wanted to be greedy about this I could have said my firm would have represented the city in this removal action and you can pay me all the extra fees that would have been generated as a result of this. Overseeing a removal action or a suspension is not one of my duties…….I didn’t start this action.”

” The verified complaint is brought by the citizen alone (Mr. Chesen), the City Attorney would not sign off on any documents brought for removal action.”

Kyle Gulya of van Briesen & Roper has so far charged the city $16K for legal services in this matter. When the matter of how much this “hearing” was going to cost the city came up Kyle Gulya stated, “Removal hearings are unpredictable; you don’t know how many days the hearing will encompass, you don’t know if there will be any prehearing litigation to the matter, weather there will be any litigation during the hearing or whether there is going to be any post hearing litigation. It is difficult to forecast the amount of fees….we are talking four separate hearing here a range of $7K to$15K unless there is prehearing or post hearing litigation that arises. …..They are a very costly experience.”

Alderman Marcella read a prepared statement stating that if there is a possible wrong doing we should look into it. Marcella is in a rather precarious position since he abstained from the vote when Mr. Condos was appointed to fill the aldermatic vacancy in the first ward, also he was “elected” as alderman with no opposition in 2008.

Alderman Tolar wants to get started with the hearing and fund the process with $200K.

Alderman Krause (now chairman of finance committee) noted that the city’s contingency fund has only $44K left in it.

“We don’t have enough money left in contingency to do the legal fees.”

Krause noted we have $2M in the general reserve fund. .”If it costs $200K so be it.”

Magee made the motion seconded by Marcella to approve to hire outside attorneys contingent upon getting the necessary funding and putting a cap on it at a later date.

Kyle Gulya went on to explain the separate roles he and the Special Prosecutor (SP) will play in the future drama.

“Our role is to represent the city, we do not represent Mr. Chesen in his personal capacity, we do not represent him with regard to the charges he has filed in this matter, and our role is to represent the council, to keep the councils noses clean in this matter.”
On Special Prosecutor (SP):   “Council should decide what the role of the SP should be. If the role of the SP is to persecute the charges filed by the mayor than get it clear on the record tonight. Or does the SP represent the interests of Mr. Chesen personally, or whether the interests of the city are in some way taken into account.”

“My role is not prosecutorial in nature my role is ajudicatorial in nature. I am advising the council in regard to the charges that have been filed. In no way shape or form will I be advising Mr. Chesen in regarding presentation of his case, regarding the witnesses to be presented, the questions to be asked, regarding the motions to be made, and regarding the objections to be made. That is the role of the SP…..Both I and Mr. Draper cannot serve both the role prosecutorial and the judicatorial role at the same time.”

Mayor Chesen clarified he wanted the SP to bring the charges to a hearing, not to represent himself personally.

Mr Gulya went on to explain the role of the city council in this matter.

” The city councils role is of a fact finder it is a judicatory role. You are like a judge but without the strict parameters of a trial. …….It is a political determination on whether to appoint a SP not legal determination.”

Alderman Condos argued against hiring a SP.

“Mr.Chesen has brought this complaint as a citizen. Mr. Chesen  should hire his own attorney. The burden of proof is on Mr.Chesen, a private citizen, brought this complaint and they should hire attorney to represent themselves. It’s a matter of precedent; whenever we are doing here we are going to set a precedent for the future. And remember anybody else can be a target. …….There are other bodies that could have looked into this…….I find the whole thing a zoo with a bunch of kangaroos in it. And we are setting a bad precedent that is why I will vote no.”

Voting to hire a SP without any specification to their duties were: Marcella, Magee, Krause,Tolar, and Taggert. Voting No was Condos. Both Roehrer and Krohn abstained (they are two of the four alderpersons in the docket).

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1 COMMENT

  1. I think it’s rather hypocritical for Mayor Chesen to assume the honor of proclaiming Constitution Week in Lake Geneva, when he has spent the past 3 weeks trampling on the Constitution by his undemocratic seizure of power and violating the constitutional rights of, not only the 4 aldermen he expelled, but the rights of all citizens of the city to be represented on the City Council by the aldermen they elected—not by a bogus , rump council of the Mayor’s making.

    When Mr. Chesen became Mayor he swore to uphold the Constitution, but he’s betrayed this oath by violating the underlying principles of the constitution when he suspended the 4 elected aldermen. Our Constitution is based on separation of powers, so no one branch of government can dominate the other branches, i.e. the Executive Branch is precluded from expelling the legislative representatives it may disagree with.

    The system of checks and balances, the other bedrock principle of our Constitution, guarantees that no part of the government become too powerful.

    In early August, Chesen complained to Regional News that he was astounded how little power the Mayor has in LG.

    So Mr. Chesen, the opportunist that he is, took an archaic State Statute written in the 1850’s and applied it in a way it was never intended in order to seize power and suspend 4 members of the legislature, thus violating the very basis of the constitution he swore to uphold.

    Proof of its violation is the fact that no other Mayor in the 160 years this statute has been on the books has ever used it this way. Over the years, I’m sure 1000’s of Mayors all over Wisconsin have licked their lips and thought about how they too could use this grossly flawed statute to get more power and ultimate control over their city government, and then annihilate their opposition; but all these Mayors, for the past 160 years, all had the good sense to realize such action would be an abuse of power and a violation of the constitution that they not only honor and respect, but have sworn to uphold .

    The Editor of the Janesville Gazette said it correctly in his Sept 18th editorial “Chesen seems guilty of an excessive power play. He should do the right thing by taking a dose of humility and immediately reinstate the 4 aldermen.”

    No, Mr. Chesen, either you have never read the constitution; don’t understand its principles; or it wasn’t part of Almeda University’s curriculum. But for your information, the Constitution is our Government’s foundational document to be used , not abused. Either way, Mr Chesen, you should not be the one to have the honor to proclaim Constitution Week in Lake Geneva.

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