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Did Lake Geneva worker pinch public fountain's pennies?

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Kayla Bunge
October 7, 2009
— The Walworth County District Attorney's Office will decide if charges should be brought against a city worker suspected of taking coins from a city fountain.

The public works department every two to four weeks cleans the fountain in front of The Riviera and collects coins thrown into it, Mayor Bill Chesen said. An employee is supposed to turn the money in to the city treasurer so it can be deposited into a city account, he said.


"Everyone assumed that was being done, that it was being put into an account to take care of maintenance of the fountain," Chesen said.


Apparently, it wasn't.


A substitute city worker this summer was cleaning the fountain and collecting the coins. For the first time, money from the fountain was being turned in to the city, Chesen said.


"Money showed up from the fountain this year that has never showed up before," he said.


More than $950 in cash—coins collected in June, July and August and part of 2008—was brought to City Hall in early September, according to Chesen.


Chesen filed a complaint with the Lake Geneva Police Department, which turned over the case to the sheriff's office to avoid a possible conflict of interest.


The sheriff's office has completed its investigation, but it's not clear if any laws were broken, Capt. Dana Nigbor said.


"We're not sure if there's any money missing," she said. "There could be … but how do we prove it if we don't know how much was there?"


Nigbor said the city had no policy stipulating what is supposed to happen with the coins from the fountain.


"They need to tighten things on their end," she said. "They need to get a policy on who collects it, when they collect it, how they collect it, how they count it and where the money is turned over."


Nigbor said the sheriff's office is waiting for a few reports to be finished before the case is referred to the district attorney's office.


City Attorney Dan Draper said the city is looking into the allegations to determine what, if anything, will happen to the city worker.


"Before we start accusing people of stealing, I need to see what policies we have in place, and we might not have a policy in place to address this type of issue," he said.


"It's sort of unique. I'm not even sure I know what was taken, if anything was taken. Even if it was taken, is that a crime? I don't know. I'm not sure."


City Administrator Dennis Jordan said nothing has happened to any city worker as a result of the allegations. He said the city will not take disciplinary action or reassign duties until an internal investigation is complete.


Jordan said the city now has a written policy regarding money thrown into the fountain and how it should be handled.



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