Judge: Former IT manager must reimburse school district $503,000

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Ted Sullivan
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
— A Rock County judge called a former Janesville School District information technology manager a crook Tuesday, ordering him to pay the district about $503,000 in civil damages for racketeering and fraud in a scheme against the district.

"It is clear to me that (Brandon) Keirns is a con artist," Judge James Welker said. "If he told me the sun was going to come up in the east in the morning, I would go to the window to be sure."

Keirns, Milwaukee, and co-defendant Jason Manthei, Waukesha, were on trial for two days in Rock County Court to determine whether they should pay the district money for civil damages.

Welker decided Keirns was liable for $251,568 in damages. He then ordered Keirns to pay double that amount, totaling $503,136. He also decided Keirns must pay the district's attorney fees.

The amount was nearly the full amount the district had requested.

Welker decided Manthei didn't commit racketeering and dismissed the district's civil complaint against him. Welker said Keirns manipulated Manthei and used him as a pawn in the scheme.

According to court documents:

The school district hired Keirns as its IT manager in January 2008. His responsibilities included making recommendations regarding what equipment the district should buy.

Keirns also was the sole officer or owner of Mithrax Networking, Error Help Group, Amog Consulting and De Rekening Group.

Keirns advised the district in January 2008 to buy electronic software through De Rekening. He didn't disclose his interest in the company.

Keirns also had Manthei act as a consultant for Mithrax. Keirns and Manthei agreed to sell computer hardware to the district through Manthei's company. Keirns and Manthei agreed to split the profits.

Keirns also asked Shannon Fermanian, Scottsdale, Ariz., to form a business for the purpose of selling computer software to the district. The district bought software from Fermanian's business. Fermanian and Keirns agreed to share the profits.

In her closing statements, the district's attorney, Sara Gehrig, said Keirns knew his scheme was unethical and a conflict of interest with his job. She said Keirns used his position to profit at the district's expense.

"The money that went into Mr. Keirns' pocket is dirty money," Gehrig said.

She said Keirns took district money that was needed for children in the community. She said Keirns defrauded the district at a time when the district's budget was tight and when thousands of people in the city lost their jobs.

"Someone needs to stand up for the community and the district," Gehrig said. "Crime does not pay."

In his closing statements, Keirns' attorney, Jack Hoag, said Keirns is a young man who didn't know his actions were against the law. He said Keirns got the district computer products at a better price.

Hoag said the district never proved it suffered losses in some parts of the case. He said Keirns also doesn't have enough money to pay the district.

Hoag and Keirns declined to comment after the court hearing.

In a separate criminal case, Keirns pleaded no contest to one felony charge of being a public employee entering into a contract with private interests and five misdemeanor charges of theft.

State statutes prohibit public employees from arranging contracts for their employers that benefit themselves.

Keirns was sentenced to three years probation and agreed to pay the district $178,000 in restitution. That money is in addition to Tuesday's civil judgment.

Manthei and Fermanian were not charged in criminal court.

Last updated: 3:45 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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