A 2016 State Department of Criminal Investigation probe into possible misconduct in the Ozaukee County Circuit Court system resulted in no charges being filed, Media Trackers has learned. The investigation was prompted by complaints from a judge that won a contentious 2013 judicial election.
Attorney Joe Voiland defeated Circuit Judge Tom Wolfgram, a three-term incumbent, with 62% of the vote, earning a 6 year term. Voiland seized on Wolfgram’s signing of the petition to recall Governor Scott Walker as a major campaign issue. Voiland argued that Wolfgram forfeited his impartiality by endorsing the recall.
According to a DCI report reviewed by Media Trackers, on May 9, 2016, DCI received a call from Voiland, regarding a complaint of CCAP(Consolidated Courts Automation Program)records being changed or tampered with. The report says Voiland explained to special agents for the DCI that he had records of initial court findings being entered into CCAP and then changes being made altering those entries at a later date. It also says Voiland raised his concerns with then Chief Judge for the district, Randy Koschnick.
According to the report, Voiland told investigators that he had been suspicious for some time that CCAP records for a number of his cases had been altered but that “it had crossed a threshold” in March of 2016, when Voiland spent an entire day reviewing cases on his docket and found that records in a probate case had been altered and back-dated by Clerk of Courts Mary Lou Mueller. Voiland also told investigators probate cases were changed from informal to formal without a judge’s approval, something Voiland contends is required.
Voiland told investigators that back-dating the records would make him “look bad” because it would give the appearance he was “sitting on cases.”
Voiland also expressed concern to investigators about filing fees that were to be held in a separate account to pay for legal custody and physical placement studies. Ozaukee County currently does not conduct such studies. As a result, Voiland told investigators that while the money may be going somewhere in the Ozaukee County budget, the investigative report never identifies where the money went.
Voiland’s statement to investigators paints the picture of a newcomer who was ostracized after challenging longstanding practices in the courthouse that he felt didn’t comply with the law. The report quotes Voiland as saying Koschnick had to get involved in a number of things to get staff to do what Voiland had ordered under the law. Voiland also told investigators about disputes he had with another circuit court judge who he claimed circumvented Voiland’s authority with staff. Voiland told investigators he also believed someone was reading his email.
Voiland related an incident to investigators where his personal divorce file was used as a template for employee training regarding the keeping of Family Court records in files, to include what information to put in notes/comments and how to handle a divorce file. Voiland told investigators that a clerk who worked for him informed him that his divorce file was used as a template for this training. According to the investigation report, Voiland provided investigators with an email thread that included this line from Clerk of Courts Mary Lou Mueller: “Judge the clerk has apologized to you and has said she will not speak about your family case to the staff again. This is now an internal matter between me and my staff. Therefore, this matter is concluded between us. Thank you.”
The report says Voiland told investigators that Koschnick contacted Mary Lou Mueller and basically told her that she is not to tell a judge to “get lost” in saying, “this matter is concluded between us.” Voiland also told investigators that he learned from CCAP personnel that a John Doe case had been “erased” after being assigned to Judge Voiland and may have been erased intentionally.
According to the report, Koshnick initially told investigators that, from what he had gathered, he did not know if personnel were conspiring or if it was a matter of sloppy clerk work that prompted Voiland’s concerns. But Koshnick later told investigators that Voiland had a number of valid complaints, and was making changes allowed under his authority. After meeting with Voiland for about five hours and reviewing documents with Voiland, Koschnick told investigators that he had “some serious concerns,” and said he thinks Voiland was right in many of his concerns.
Koschnick declined comment on the record when contacted by Media Trackers, but he did say he was quoted accurately throughout the report. Mary Lou Mueller did not respond to a request for comment and Voiland declined to comment on the record.
Court officials from Walworth, Washington, and Fond du Lac Counties told investigators that the back-dating of cases was either rare or not done at all in their counties. While the practice may be rare in other counties, investigators told Koshnick that analysis showed a relatively even distribution of back-dated cases among the three Ozaukee County judges, which could suggest the practice didn’t target Voiland.
A source familiar with the investigation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was possible that Voiland didn’t communicate his wishes well to staff as to how he wanted certain things handled. The source said Voiland is considered by some as “by the book” and “a stickler on that kind of stuff.” The source told Media Trackers a Department of Justice prosecutor considered four possible charges coming out of the investigation:
- Misconduct in public office
- Computer crimes
- fraudulent data alteration
- fraudulent writings
Ultimately, no charges were filed as a result of the probe. The investigation report runs 357 pages in length.