Lake Geneva City Council mum about audit petition

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Kayla Bunge
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
— The Lake Geneva City Council was mum Monday about a call from more than 400 residents for an independent and comprehensive audit of city finances.

Barbara Hartke, who circulated the petition for direct legislation as part of her campaign for District 2 alderwoman, presented the petition to the newly seated council.

“The responsibility now lies with you to do the right thing,” she said.

City Clerk Diana Dykstra within 15 days must verify the signatures and determine if the petition is sufficient. City Attorney Dan Draper advised the council against discussing the proposal for an audit until the clerk reviews the petition and it is referred back to the council.

The petition calls for:

-- A moratorium on non-emergency spending and promises of contractual monetary obligations until the city can guarantee it has enough money to cover such actions.

-- An independent and comprehensive audit of city finances, including auxiliary agencies.

In presenting the petition to the council Monday, Hartke said the call for such an audit is “not a finger-pointing thing” but a smart, responsible thing.

“Every municipality is struggling to figure out … how to manage the people’s money,” she said. “This type of audit will do that.”

Hartke previously told the Gazette the city only relies on the annual audit, which is mandated by state law and has been done by the same local accounting firm for years. She said many municipalities call for a comprehensive audit by an independent firm every few years to ensure finances are being handled properly. She said such an audit is long overdue.

Former Mayor Bill Chesen, speaking as a regular resident, said he felt the city was in good financial shape. He said the city already conducts an annual audit and another audit is not necessary.

“But if it will put to rest some of the questions that never seem to go away, then that would be nice,” he said. “Let’s spend the money for another outside audit and see if we can put this thing to rest.”

If the city clerk determines the petition for direct legislation is sufficient, the city council will have a chance to weigh in on the proposal for an independent audit. The council could approve the petition and make the proposal a law or reject the petition and send the proposal to referendum.

If the proposal becomes law, then the city council after two years may either alter or abolish the direct legislation ordinance.

Council denies claims for attorney’s fees

Two current city council members and two former city council members now have six months to bring a lawsuit against the city seeking about $90,000 in attorney’s fees they say they incurred defending themselves against charges filed by the former mayor last fall.

The Lake Geneva City Council on Monday voted 6-2 to deny the claims filed by council members Mary Jo Fesenmaier and Arleen Krohn and former council members Penny Roehrer and Tom Spellman.

Former Mayor Bill Chesen on Sept. 10 suspended the four council members and accused them of misconduct and violating the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law. He accused Spellman and Roehrer also of neglecting their duties.

The four are seeking reimbursement of $89,594. Fesenmaier and Spellman also are seeking reimbursement of an additional $2,100.

Chesen on Monday asked the council to deny the claims because the matter never reached a hearing, never required him to show proof of the alleged wrongdoing and never required them to defend themselves.

“Now they’re asking for legal expenses?” he said. “I hope the council is not going to approve this.”

Last updated: 1:20 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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