Kenosha County Board member David Celebre (D) resigned his position as 5th District supervisor last Wednesday, December 22, 2021. He got caught in a financial ethics scandal. He has been on the County’s payroll for at least 3 years, and not just as an elected member of the board. This year alone, he has been paid almost $31,000 according to county records obtained by KCE through public records requests. As a board member since 2018, he authorizes these payments, thus effectively writing checks to himself from the county taxpayers. This is considered a clear cut violation of the county’s ethics code. Section 20.04-1(4)a of the county’s code deals with such a conflict. Two other sitting County Board members and at least one former member have refused to participate in the advocate counsel program, citing this conflict. An opinion was issued from the Wisconsin Department of Justice that warned an elected official not to serve as an elected member of the board and get paid by the county simultaneously. Celebre, however, was happy to take the money. On his letter of resignation, he says that the defendants that he represents as their lawyer, pay the money back to the county. He is being untruthful. Some do, and some don’t. In some cases, when a defendant is found not guilty, or is indigent, the County eats the cost.
KCE was alerted to this conflict from a whistle-blower in Kenosha’s legal community. We asked County Clerk Regi Bachochin (D) for Celebre’s financial forms on December 20, 2021. We asked for the financial records of payments made to Celebre on December 21, 2021 from Circuit Court Clerk Rebecca Matoska-Mentink (D). The very next day, on December 22, 2021, Celebre resigned from the board in a written letter to the county board via the clerk, but the clerk never forwarded this letter of resignation to the board members. Celebre had initially told colleagues he would finish his term and not run again – it wasn’t until KCE started asking questions, that he resigned effective immediately. It is unknown which elected official tipped off Celebre, the Circuit Court Clerk or County Clerk, but the timing is extremely curious to those of us that don’t believe in coincidences.
Turning A Blind Eye?
According to Celebre’s Statement of Financial Interest and Financial Disclosure form that all elected officials are required to fill out annually, he wrote “I am occasionally appointed by a court to represent a party to a case.” The term occasionally here is an obviously misleading term. Celebre accepted about 50 such assignments in the last three years alone.
Many powerful officials in Kenosha turned a blind eye to this. Matoska, whose office is responsible for paying Celebre, knew of this conflict. The County’s legal department, headed by Attorney Joe Cardamone explicitly knew about the conflict. The County Executive Jim Kreuser (D) knew of this conflict. It wasn’t until KCE was alerted that anyone seemed to care. Some in the community speculate that it has to do with how Celebre voted. Celebre was a mostly non-verbal member of the board who voted with the County administration more than 90% of the time.
Kenosha small business owner Brian Thomas has submitted his paperwork to run for the open seat.