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Darien board members plead not guilty

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ANN MARIE AMES
March 12, 2009
— Members of the Darien Village Board moved one step closer to trial Wednesday.

All seven board members pleaded not guilty in Walworth County Court to charges they violated the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law.


The charges are not criminal, but each board member faces three counts, each carrying a forfeiture of $25 to $300.


Shortly after Wednesday's hearing in front of Judge Robert Kennedy, Assistant District Attorney Diane Donahoo met individually with six of the board members and made settlement offers.


All six—President Robert Metzner and board members Robert Wenzel, James Abbott, Phil Putman, Kurt Zipp and Allen Kenyon—refused Donahoo's offer.


The men each told The Janesville Gazette that Donahoo offered to settle if they changed their pleas to guilty and paid a $100 fine.


Board member Craig McCue did not speak to Donahoo about a settlement offer because he plans to hire an attorney.


The rest of the board members will represent themselves.


The complaints stem from three meetings, according to Walworth County Sheriff's Office investigative reports obtained by the Gazette.


According to the reports:


-- An Oct. 24 session during which board members interviewed candidates for village administrator was not posted.


-- Notices for Oct. 27 and Nov. 18 closed session meetings were incomplete.


According to the reports, Darien Police Chief Steve DeVoy filed a complaint about the Nov. 18 meeting with the sheriff's office. Reports do not indicate who filed the complaints about the other two meetings.


This morning, DeVoy told the Gazette he filed complaints with the sheriff's office because he and Darien residents had concerns about the meetings. But he could not confirm the complaints he made are the three being prosecuted.


Metzner, Kenyon, McCue and Putman face challengers in the April 7 general election.


Board members will next appear in court at 4 p.m. Friday, April 3, for a pre-trial hearing.



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