the Year of the Ethics Violations

The year 2013 might be remembered as the Year of the Ethics Violations in Racine Wisconsin. The year started with a series of complaints filed by The Racine Equality Project, and concerns about the outsourcing of Cable Access Racine soon followed.

Dan Macemon, a local business owner filed a complaint after a bid for a demolition project in the Uptown area resulted in damage to an adjacent building. Macemon alleges that the damage was caused by the City’s lax administration of bidding documents and an unfair bidding process.

Those interested in the Cable Access Racine matter, paid close attention to the details of the case. The filing of a complaint by Dr. Ken Yorgan of the Racine Equality Project, alleged that there were multiple ethics violations by the City of Racine, Mayor John Dickert, City staff, and even a member of the City of Racine Cable Commission. http://racineequalityproject.org/

Attendees of the first hearing were shocked to learn that two members of the mayoral appointed Ethics Board also worked on the Mayor’s election campaign  nickmayor Lincoln Murphy and Doug Nicholson were each featured in literature and advertising for the Dickert campaign.

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Another mayoral appointee, Russell Missureli,  fell asleep during procedural phase

  but opted to vote anyway. 

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Many were shocked that these three members did not recuse themselves either for at least an apparent conflict of interest or, in the case of Missureli, a lack of information.   

At the time, Dr. Yorgan, the Chairman of the Racine Unity Project, was satisfied by Murphy and Nicholson and felt that they could be trusted to act in an ethical manner. The next ethics hearing was held and in less then 2 hours, all charges were dismissed.

Attendee Kate Remington was one of many who heard Chair Mary Wyant express the sentiment that ‘they (Ethics Commission) was not interested in the truth.’

Still, others were left with the impression that the charges were never really meant to be answered and that the hearing was just for show.

Macemon’s hearing would be even shorter. Conveniently there was  no court reporter on hand to transcribe the hearings

Since that time, another issue has arisen. The recent Indian Burial Mound sale could still lead to more ethics hearings as changes are in the works to address the way in which ethics charges are handled. 

“Cities Pitch Ethics Switch: Racine residents Could Have Kenosha Consider Ethics Complaints” Racine Journal Times 7-22-13  

The solution may involve a change of venue for perceived ethics violations. By partnering with the City of Kenosha, Racine’s cases would be transferred to that jurisdiction’s ethics board, eliminating some of the conflicts, both perceived and real. Kenosha’s cases would similarly be transferred to Racine. Of course, both cities would need to have reciprocity in their rules.

Should the City of Racine follow Kenosha’s lead, one would have to live in Racine or the physical address of a business would have to be in Racine to file. According to various sources, Alderman Gregg Helding does not oppose the concept.

The City of Kenosha is also looking into making changes in their Ordinance

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That change would mandate that should a charge be filed, and no violations are found to exist, the complainant would be charged a fine. Many believe that this would prevent thwart justice and will only serve stifle the complaints of those who are unable to take the financial risk, especially in light of the Board’s recent actions.

That change has not yet passed in Kenosha, though it is not expected come up against much resistance. If so, it’s possible that the City of Racine will do the same.   

Dr. Ken Yorgan weighed in on the matter:

 

The ethics board in Racine is nothing more than a place where ethics complaints are taken to die a brief and anonymous death.  As Chairman of the Racine Equality Project, I have had occasion to file two ethics complaints against members of the city administration on behalf of aggrieved citizens.  I did not take that responsibility lightly and only signed my name as complainant after being thoroughly convinced that there actually were violations, and not simply someone’s disgruntlement with administrative procedures.

The proposed cooperative agreement between Racine and Kenosha, which would have these cities receive and review each others ethics complaints, is of questionable merit.  This is especially true when a part of the agreement provides for harsh financial consequences against any citizen whose complaint is determined to be “unfounded.”  While the threat of such consequences might act as a deterrent to someone whose only interest is badgering elected officials, it would also deter those who have legitimate complaints but lack confidence in the integrity of the process.  It’s a classic case of a solution looking for a problem, specifically, how many complaints are filed in a given year, and how many can unequivocally be described as “unfounded?”

It is doubtful that a city has the authority to impose costs on anyone for filing an ethics complaint, regardless of the outcome, but it is troubling that such punitive prerogative be placed in the hands of political appointees.  A better alternative would be to establish a process whereby disinterested citizens are called upon to review ethics complaints, in much the same way that juries are selected for judicial trials. 

    Dr. Ken Yorgan

    Chairman, Racine Equality Project 

 This is posted or will be soon in the Paper I write for, in about a week I check the numbers for views.   Yes the Story of Racine is getting out more and more

Ethics Board WTF Racine? My .02

Ethics Board  is IMHO a critical board to have for the City of Racine if not any city. For as I see it from time to time events will happen and the question is/was it Ethical to take place or even can the City of X do this Y or not. Then fix that issues or behavior.

We all I believe want the best Goverment we can have and should something be questioned know that the Ethics Board will do the best job possible to look into issues and resolve issue.s

Readers o this Blog know of the Question I have after an ethics board member was show sleeping

For a recap here is one of the Photos taken

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Now I talked to a Board member about this and also sent an open Records request.

Good Day

I am asking under Open Records for Copies of all Emails between

Doug Nicholson
1534 College Ave.

Lincoln Murphy
333 Lake Ave #708

Attorney Mary Wyant
465 Melvin Ave.

Diana Valencia-Garcia
1134 Dr. Martin Luther King Dr.

Russell Missureli
3243 Barbara Dr.

Thomas Friedel City Administrator

concerning Member Russell Missureli and his Sleeping at the last Meeting of this group this month on or about 4/15/13

See attached Photo   PDF copies would be fine. I understand that there 
may be a charge for this and if so I will be told of said charge in advance

Thank You

Wayne Clingman

In return I received this : 
he Board of Ethics members do not have city-issued email accounts.  Have you contacted any of those members directly?  If you request the City to make the contacts for you, then that may constitute locating the records, the charge for which would be charged to you, if it exceeds $50.00.  Wis. Stat. sec.  19.35(3)(c).

City Administrator Tom Friedel advises me that he has had no email communication on the requested topic.  As such, there is no record to provide.

Nicole F. Loop
Assistant City Attorney
Racine City Attorney's Office
730 Washington Avenue
Racine, WI 53403
p: (262) 636-9115
f: (262) 636-9570

I have been assured by others I trust of two things 

1) The Sleeping issues is being addressed 
2) That If I feel I need to request the Help of the City others will help fund the cost  

Great that is one issue delt with but yet there is another 

I will say that the Mayor should be able to appoint the members he sees fit to the Board that is part of the Goverment of Racine to a degree, however conflicts of interests should not be allowed or even be hinted at. For as I see it The City Leadership must be above reproach, and if Ethical Questions come up be investigated by an impartial group    

The man above if cant stay wake can't serve anyone, can he? If so how? Be being told how to vote? 

Can a close pal of the Mayor who held event/s for the Mayor's election/reelection  be seen as being unbiased? Can Doug Nicholson in fact do that? 
Would it not be better for Mr. Nicholson to recuse himself from hearing the case dealingh with the Mayor and a member of his campaign staff Mary Jerger who severed as treasurer? 

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I would hope that the Mayor himself has asked him to do so so, as this Ethics case goes forward it looks as good as possible, to all who live in Racine. Will this occur? I do know this should it not I guess that an Ethics invesagation will take place on the Ethics Board 

Note I am looking for the Story from the J-T, on who went with Mayor John Dickert to France

Is the Linc Murray on the flyer the same that is on the Ethics Bord?  If so should he not recuse himself?
is this as shady as it looks?  

Asleep at the wheel City of Racine Ethics Commission

ethics

Today at Racine City Hall there was a meeting of the City of Racine Ethics Commission

the above is a photo taken of a member of this group.

I and others saw this member sleeping as the meeting was held and planing talked about for the upcoming Ethics complaints filed on Mayor John Dickert Other City of Racine Staff and members of the City of Racine Cable Commission over issues about CAR 25.

Can the above Member do his job?   Is the public being served by this?

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Is this how the City thinks how to best serve the public?

I got this from the City Attorney today 4/22/13

“I have been advised that the board member in question had just gotten home from eye surgery.  Any further questions should be addressed to the chair.”

So no one from the Board knew before that this was going to be the case? Why did it take a week and phone calls (not returned) and Emails to  get that? makes other events and talks even more interesting or is this the first excuse the City could come up with? What do you think? Will others think that the Mayor of Racine will do what it takes…?