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.