Kenosha County elected officials as well as the Sheriff may accept gifts of any value, even if the organization that gives the gifts needs those same officials’ approval to operate. That is, at least the opinion of Milwaukee lawyer Jacob Curtis of Attolles Law, S.C. that was paid thousands of dollars by county tax-payers. This announcement came at the end of a more than six month investigation.
During a July 20, 2021 County Board meeting, board member Sandra Beth, who is the mother of Sheriff David Beth (D) announced that she and at least four other board members received free all-access VIP passes to Country Thunder Music Festival saying in part,
“We went backstage where the entertainers were. We were given whole weekend passes to everything on the grounds free of charge including our food and liquid and we went to the camping areas we went to the rental tent areas and we got to meet the owners of country thunder and everyone was extremely gracious to us.“
After hearing Beth’s comments, supervisor Erin Decker asked the County’s attorney to investigate whether or not there were any violations of county ordinance or state law. County attorney Joey Cardamone contacted Attorney Andrew Philips who is the general counsel for the Wisconsin Counties Association. According to Cardamone, Philips referred him to a colleague, Jacob Curtis who took over six months to investigate. The two worked for von Briesen & Roper, s.c. at the start of the investigation, but the two are seemingly partners in a brand new law firm called Attolles Law, S.C.
These passes entitled the board members to unlimited food, non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages for the entire festival. Although they had their choice of any food and beverage, Attorney Curtis told the county board Tuesday night at a special meeting that board members accepted water and hot dogs “just to stay hydrated” while taking a tour of the festival for official business. He noted that at least two members returned to the festival later and watched concerts, ate and drank, all for free. The type of passes that the board members received are not sold to regular folks, so there is no way to determine the value, however cheaper passes without VIP access cost multiple thousands of dollars per person.
Attorney Curtis said in part:
“With respect to the two supervisors who later attended concerts, while a “close call,” neither appears to have directly violated the county’s ethics code – the supervisors appear to not have intentionally sought the passes but were given the passes as part of the tours and because the permits were issued well before the tours and the permits for the following year’s festival (so in other words this year) are not considered until late spring early summer it’s either impossible or unlikely receipt of the passes would “influence judgment” which is the key term under the (ordinance and statute.)”
“With respect to the possibility of a reward it doesn’t appear that the passes were selectively distributed. To any supervisor who attended the tour presumably would have access to a pass whether the supervisor supported or opposed permit issuance (for Country Thunder to operate) with only slight changes in context and facts one could conclude that it would be reasonable to view receipt of the passes as influencing decisions or rewarding behavior.”
“In the future it is imperative that supervisors as well as the sheriff who facilitated provision of the passes consult with corporation council prior to organizing this sort of event.”
All of the supervisors accused of violations and the County Board Chairman left out of a employee-only exit and dodged the Kenosha County Eye and the Kenosha News. Curtis wouldn’t take questions from the media. We asked O’Day what his thoughts were on the investigation and he said “no comment.”
You can watch Curtis’ oral report below: