Ethics board dismisses contractor’s complaints

Allegations of false statements don’t constitute violation, members say
2013-05-14T06:22:00Z 2013-12-18T14:08:18Z Ethics board dismisses contractor’s complaintsCARA SPOTO Journal Times

RACINE — Ethics complaints made by a local demolition contractor against four city officials were dismissed Monday by the city’s Board of Ethics.

Filed late last month by Dan Macemon, the complaints accused the officials — Public Works Commissioner Mark Yehlen, Chief Building Inspector Ken Plaski, Purchasing Agent Kathy Kasper and Alderman Ron Hart — of violating the city’s ethics code, alleging that they “intentionally” made false statements to the City Council during discussions of the demolition of a building at 1516 Washington Ave.

The city solicited bids for the demolition of the building in late November. Macemon, who co-owns Macemon & Sons Inc., bid on the job to raze the blighted building. He and three other contractors lost out to lowest bidder Azarian Wrecking.

After change orders on the project brought the total cost of the job to $52,350 — about twice Azarian’s original $26,209 bid — Macemon began raising questions about how and why the change orders were approved.

Gathered at City Hall, 730 Washington Ave., it took board members less than 30 minutes to go through each of the four complaints. Members came to the conclusion that either the ethics board wasn’t the proper forum to be discussing bidding or request for proposal procedure, or that making a “false statement” did not constitute a violation of the city’s ethics code, and therefore probable cause for investigating the claims could not be found.

The board was only looking at whether or not the officials may have violated the ethics code, and not whether the statements in the allegations were true or false.

In the complaints, Macemon alleged that Yehlen, Plaski, Hart and Kasper (misspelled in the complaint as Kasperson), violated a section of the city’s ethics code that public officials are prohibited from “intentionally falsifying an account, record book, return, certificate, report or statement in the officer or employee’s official capacity.”

While Macemon interpreted the section as applying to a verbal statement, board members determined that the word “statement” referred to an actual document, such as a bank or billing statement.

“At our meeting on April 29, we also considered this section of the ordinance ... We determined that what it means is that the officer or employee took an existing record of some kind and altered it so that it was no longer accurate,” ethics board Chairman Mary Wyant said Monday. “It does not mean that the officer or employee said or wrote something that was not factually correct.”

During discussions of Macemon’s complaint against Yehlen, which alleged that the department head verbally “falsified information” to aldermen regarding the condition of a building adjacent to 1516 Washington Ave., board member Lincoln Murphy said that Macemon’s argument appeared to be with the “RFP procedures and not the ethics code.”

Wyant made a similar statement during the discussion of the complaint against Plaski.

“There certainly may be legitimate complaints here — I don’t have an opinion one way or the other — but much of what is being alleged here is not the business of the Board of Ethics,” she said.

Macemon said after the meeting that he still believes his complaints are legitimate and hopes to find a forum where they will receive proper attention.

Complaint against mayor also dismissed

RACINE — A complaint alleging that Mayor John Dickert exceeded his authority as mayor also was dismissed by the Board of Ethics on Monday.

Brought by local resident Kate Remington, the complaint also alleged that Dickert violated the due process rights of former Racine alderman Keith Fair when he asked for a temporary injunction to shutter Fair’s bar, The Place on 6th, 509 Sixth St.

Discussing the complaint, members said they could not find probable cause that a violation of the city’s ethics code had occurred mainly because the complaint did not provide any evidence or specifics.

“It is just a statement,” board member Lincoln Murphy said. “I don’t find any specifics that would warrant us finding probable cause.”

In the beginning of her complaint, Remington asked that the complaint be moved out of Racine County, but ethics board chairman Mary Wyant stated that there is no provision in the city’s ethics code for moving the complaint to a different county. Wyant added that there were no specific “conflict of interest” allegations that would indicate why any of the ethics board members shouldn’t be reviewing the complaint.

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(14) Comments

  1. mt_pleasantly
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    mt_pleasantly - May 14, 2013 7:26 pm
    Making a false statement and knowingly making a false statement are two different thinks. Which is it. I think it's the latter.
  2. Green Racinereal
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    Green Racinereal - May 14, 2013 3:35 pm
    Is Racine the new Port Royal?
  3. You Wish
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    You Wish - May 14, 2013 2:37 pm
    Wow, JT hid this article super fast.....That alone should tell everyone something.

    Racine = laughing stock of entire State of Wisconsin. So sad.
  4. You Wish
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    You Wish - May 14, 2013 12:13 pm
    Absolutely true. The whole city knows.

    TMJ4 said they would "look into" it as it seems extremely unethical, but the other stations never replied. lol

    Hopefully a city "leader" adresses it before the media does. Racine will look stupid once again.

    JT is afraid to tell ANY truths in this city.
    Report Abuse
    SLEEPING ETHICS - May 14, 2013 11:19 am
    For the Ethics Board to be able to review and dismiss all of the details and evidence of all of the complaints against four different people in less than 30 minutes, and also dismiss an additional complaint against another official makes this seem explicitly pre-determined and as if they were coached through the entire process. It would be interesting to know what conversations and meetings the Ethics Board members had with city administration and officials leading up to these mock board meetings.
  6. Green Racinereal
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    Green Racinereal - May 14, 2013 11:17 am
  7. racinetoday
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    racinetoday - May 14, 2013 10:44 am
    Mr. Macemon might have thought he was in Kenosha County as their "Code of Ethics" includes language covering "misrepresentation, either oral or written, in the course of any work falling within the scope of their employment" Their "Code of Ethics" also incorporates "COMPLIANCE WITH STATE STATUTES" which may be another forum. Bottom line, is that it was reasonable for Mr. Macemon to think that a charge of verbal misrepresentation would be considered.

    On a somewhat related note maybe the JT could interview the New Owner of 1516-1518 Washington and see what their plans for the property are. Maybe Mr. Macemon could do some work for the New Owner; grading for grass or maybe put some asphalt there to fill-in the hole which is not pretty and potentially problematic.
  8. PrimeTime69
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    PrimeTime69 - May 14, 2013 9:34 am
    Its sad when in Racine no one even trusts their ethics board, and how could you, with people like Dickert's campaign fund raisers on the board??? Lincoln Murphy and Doug Nicholson both host fund raisers and donate large sums of money to Dickert, how is that ethical? The other member falls asleep during the meetings, how is that ethical? Racine has huge problems and they don't care about the residents or the citizens, in their eyes, YOU PEOPLE are the problem!!!! It really is unbelievable.
  9. Racine Writer
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    Racine Writer - May 14, 2013 9:27 am
    Kate- the District Attorney enforces the state ethics laws that apply to local officials. If you think this board white washed your complaint, take it to the DA.
  10. Shari
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    Shari - May 14, 2013 9:15 am
    And the good ole boys club continues. Rock on John
  11. ggodmuls
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    ggodmuls - May 14, 2013 8:00 am
    Is it related to this?

    Racine County Case Number 2012FA001423
  12. ggodmuls
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    ggodmuls - May 14, 2013 7:56 am
    Was the outcome ever in doubt - when the fix was in?

    You Wish - Are those allegations true? Is a spouse complaining? Aldermen aren't the only cheating spouses in Racine's government who have been caught in a car - with someone who isn't their wife...... but that report got "lost". LOL Who did RPD "catch and release"?

    Adultry is still a crime in Wisconsin! in five other states - Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Idaho, Michigan and Wisconsin, adultery is categorized as a felony. Adultery is rarely prosecuted in Wisconsin, but the fact that a cheating spouse could be convicted of a felony for his or her behavior is something that few Wisconsin residents are aware of.

    Wis. Stat 944.16: 944.16  Adultery. Whoever does either of the following is guilty of a Class I felony:
    (1) A married person who has sexual intercourse with a person not the married person's spouse; or
    (2) A person who has sexual intercourse with a person who is married to another.

  13. Kate Remington
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    Kate Remington - May 14, 2013 7:48 am
    Essential to the continued functioning of an open government is the preservation of the integrity of the governmental decision-making process.

    Ethics Board members do not introduce themselves, do not allow discussion with the public. Nor does the Ethics Board even have copies of the complaints for which they are to consider It didn't even appear yesterday as if anyone had actually read the matters before them. Mr. Macemon and myself were told we could not join into the discussion.

    The people's right to petition for redress of grievances is at the heart of my complaint on behalf of O.Keith Fair.....who would know that from this article or from attending yesterday's Ethics Board meeting????? Not even the members of the board themselves!!! Why?

    Per the City of Racine, Wisconsin's Directory of City Officials, Boards, Commissions, Special Committees publication, dated August 2002 Mary Wyant was already on this Ethics Board and her husband, Judge Wyant was already on the City Plan Commission. So was Russell Missureli already sitting on the Ethics Board in 2002. That's a long time to sit on one board. I don't know the full name of the man 'Lincoln,' like I said they do not introduce themselves, but here is a bet....he is somewhere in this same little old 2002 directory. Hard to be objective when you are a privileged insider. Hard to be objective especially when you benefit financially.

    Legal Definition - pattern or practice, US Justice Department

    Ethics? Decks are stacked against fairness, openness, accountability, lawfulness. This is wrong. I continue to support O. Keith Fair because he has been treated unlawfully by this city as an individual and as a public official.

    This Ethics Board buries its head in the sand.
  14. You Wish
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    You Wish - May 14, 2013 7:35 am
    I imagine that 2 alderpersons having a baby together (even though they are married or were married to different people) is ethical as well?? LMAO
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