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More allegations in Lake Geneva

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Kayla Bunge
February 23, 2010
— Alderwoman Mary Jo Fesenmaier had her say a few weeks ago, accusing city staff of mismanaging city funds in violation of state statutes.

But Mayor Bill Chesen fired back Monday night, accusing some city council members of making unauthorized expenditures.


“I’ve said it in writing. I’ve said it to you in person. I’ve said it from this bench … There’s a trick to getting what you want. The trick is you have to ask …” he said. “If you’re going to be such a stickler about procedure, then why not follow the letter of the law all the way around?”


Chesen, who seemed to direct his comments at Fesenmaier, asked the council to consider opening an investigation into the alleged illegal expenditures, which include:


-- A bill from Nyquist Engineering of Lake Geneva for more than $1,000 for construction of the city’s new Web site, authorized by the communications committee.


-- A bill from Vandewalle and Associates for more than $150 for an audit of park impact fees, authorized by an alderman.


Fesenmaier is chairwoman of the communications committee and a member of the park board.


“One alderman is taking it upon themselves to ask questions,” Chesen said. “I’d love to go back to the investigation of the aldermen for misconduct. And I’d love to go forward with this investigation into unauthorized expenditures.”


But he stopped himself. He asked that the item be put on the next city council agenda, and he told the council members to think about it.


“You are not authorized to spend the city’s money. You are not authorized to start projects on your own. You are not authorized to start investigations without permission from the council,” Chesen said.


Also on Monday night, the city council denied, 4-3, a request to hire an independent attorney to look into possible mismanagement of city funds at a cost of about $2,000.


Fesenmaier at the personnel committee meeting Feb. 4 had asked the city to hire someone to look into the alleged mismanagement, which includes:


-- Spending money out of the undesignated reserve fund without a budget resolution approved by two-thirds of the city council in violation of state statute.


-- Making purchases of more than $25 out of petty cash in violation of city policy.


-- Paying for park benches out of park impact fees in violation of state statute and paying an individual, not a company, for construction of the benches.


-- Paying off the library credit card using prepaid checks, which usually are not approved by the finance committee or city council until after the bill has been paid.


Alderman Frank Marsala suggested the council ask the police department or the city attorney to investigate the matter. But Fesenmaier urged the committee to seek the help of an independent attorney to avoid a possible conflict of interest.


“I believe this needs to be looked at from the outside so we have an opinion on who was involved and what rules might have been broken,” she said.



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