Wisconsin

Green Bay Mayor Sat for a Year on Letter Clearing 3 Aldermen

Campaigns

Media Trackers has learned that Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt was told a year ago that a campaign finance investigation against three aldermen had been closed but said nothing. Schmitt, in December 2015, requested the investigation after one was launched into his campaign finances. The probe into the Mayor’s finances ultimately led to misdemeanor conviction charges against him. Aldermen Tom De Wane, Andy Nicholson and Chris Wery contended at the time that Schmitt’s request for an investigation into them was nothing more than retaliation for the probe against Schmitt. De Wane said that he had no involvement in requesting the investigation against Schmitt. Schmitt made the request to Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf, who was also investigating Schmitt’s campaign finances.

Throughout the past year, much of the media coverage of the Schmitt probe included mention of the ongoing investigation against the three aldermen.  Wery recently asked Milwaukee County District Attorney Bruce Landgraf of the status of the investigation against him. Landgraf responded by saying he had sent a letter to Schmitt dated February 2, 2016, informing him that “after a brief review of the campaign finance reports, I nevertheless note that any “business” contributions appear to have been made more than three years ago. In absence of information suggesting criminal misconduct, the statute of limitations has passed…In absence of further information, I am taking no further action at this time.”

Wery, Nicholson and Alderman Guy Zima requested the investigation into Schmitt’s campaign finances in January, 2015, a move Schmitt characterized as a baseless political attack. In September 2016, Landgraf announced he was charging Schmitt with three misdemeanor offenses.  Schmitt pleaded guilty Dec. 5 to misdemeanor charges of making false statements on campaign finance reports, attempting to accept funds from someone other than the reported contributor and attempting to accept funds in excess of the individual contribution limit. He was ordered to pay a $4,000 fine and serve 40 hours of community service.

A citizen has petitioned the Green Bay City Council for Schmitt’s removal from office. The Council will hold a hearing on that petition on Feb. 20. Media Trackers reached out to Schmitt via text message Friday afternoon seeking comment. As of Saturday morning, Schmitt had not responded.

Update: In response to a request for comment, Alderman Chris Wery emailed the statement below.

We said right from the beginning that this was purely a revenge tactic, meant to cast a bad light on us and take the spotlight off himself.  It is very disheartening to hear that the mayor and his attorney have known for a full year that our campaign accounts were not going to be investigated, yet they sat back and let the news and social media have a field day, continuing to say we were ‘under investigation’.  I can use much stronger words, however suffice it to say their actions are dishonest, lack integrity and are petty in the extreme.  I expect an apology to myself, the people of my district, my family and friends for not clearing our names and allowing this false dark cloud to hang over us.

 

You can read Landgraf’s February, 2016 letter below:

REDACTED O’Neill Letter re no further action (Wery)_Redacted

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