Former Lake Geneva Street employees charged with misconduct, theft
ELKHORN—Two former Lake Geneva Street Department employees charged with misconduct in public office and theft are suspected of giving away city salt and sand mix to private companies and stealing profits from recycled city oil and scrap metal.
Ronald M. Carstensen is accused of giving $25,000 worth of city salt and sand to private companies between 2009 and 2013. He's also charged with keeping a sales tax refund check meant for the city, according to the Wisconsin Attorney General's Office, which is prosecuting the case.
Donald A. Hoeft Jr. is alleged to have helped provide the mixture, and he failed to turn over proceeds from recycled oil and scrapped metal when he worked at the street department, according to a complaint. Hoeft also is charged with falsely reporting community service hours for a street department probationer.
While superintendent, Carstensen started working on a “barter” system with C&D Landscaping and Design, N4819 Bowers Road, Elkhorn, and B&J Landscape, W2795 Krueger Road, according to one criminal complaint.
“Things got out of hand” and he had no idea how much sand and salt the two companies were getting, according one complaint.
Carstensen started working for the street department in 1996 and was superintendent from 2006 to 2013, a complaint states. He stopped working for the city in late 2013, said Dana Brueck, communications officer for the attorney general's office.
Carstensen denied any personal benefit from supplying sand and salt to B&J Landscape.
Bill Hill, foreman at B&J Landscape, has known Carstensen “since their school days.” Hill called Carstensen in 2011 asking if he could have a load of salt, a complaint states.
Daniel Sojka, owner of C&D Landscaping and Design, said he has known Carstensen his “entire life” and received 127 tons of salt from the city in 2012-13, a complaint states.
B&J Landscape received about $17,000 worth of sand and salt from Nov. 19, 2009, to March 13, 2013. C&D Landscaping and Design received about $14,000 worth of sand and salt from Dec. 23, 2009, to Feb. 11, 2013, according to a complaint.
The city invoiced C&D Landscaping and Design for 502 tons from 2009 to 2013. B&J Landscape was invoiced for 250 tons from 2009 to 2013, Brueck said.
Hoeft worked for the department for 18 years, seven of those under Carstensen, a complaint states. He resigned June 20, Brueck said.
Hoeft reportedly cashed checks after receiving money from recycled oil and scrap metal. The cash went to Carstensen for a “slush fund” to pay for office donuts, parties, food and Hoeft's cellphone bill, according to a complaint.
The Walworth County Sheriff's Office received a report from an informant in October 2013 encouraging law enforcement to kook into Carstensen and his activities relating to his job, a complaint states.
The attorney general's office is handling the case, which frequently happens when the local district attorney's office requests a special prosecutor in a case involving local officials, Brueck said.
Initial court appearances for Hoeft and Carstensen are set for 1:15 p.m. July 22 at the Walworth County Judicial Center.