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Kenosha County Eye Sues Village Of Salem Lakes For Violating Public Records Law

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Salem Lakes Village Hall
(Photo by Kevin Mathewson, Kenosha County Eye)

Kenosha County Eye editor Kevin Mathewson filed suit today in Kenosha County Circuit Court against The Village of Salem Lakes. Also named in the suit are Village Administrator Mike Murdock and Village Clerk Shannon Hahn. In the suit, Mathewson is asking a Circuit Court Judge to order the Village to provide him with the records he requested, and were illegally denied.

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Kenosha County Eye has been reporting behavior from elected officials and other employees of the Village of Salem Lakes. Most of the tips we’ve received have proven to be true. One such tip, is that the embattled Fire Chief, Jim Lejcar has been such a terrible leader, that many quality firefighters have resigned in the last year. Of course, before reporting on this, we started a fact-finding investigation. On January 28, 2023, we asked the Village of Salem Lakes for the resignation and/or termination letters from the fire department for the last three years. After slow-playing the request for almost a month, Village Clerk Shannon Hahn denied our request today. She cited a statute that has nothing to do with our request.

A Village Clerk like Shannon, likely consulted with the Village’s Attorney, Rich Scholze before making this determination, especially becuase we’ve never lost a public records lawsuit. In fact, we’ve won over eleven lawsuits and administrative appeals in Illinois and Wisconsin. This denial is especially laughable because the Village has provided KCE with a letter of resignation on January 20, 2023, just over a week before this request. Here is the resignation letter that Hahn provided to us:

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We called Rich Scholze at his law firm to try to talk some reason into him. He immediately hung up on us. This is not the type of behavior we should expect from a lawyer that represents government agencies.

We emailed Scholze and all of his partners on February 20, 2023. We told them what Rich was doing. We gave the village until tonight at 5pm to reconsider the denial. Mathewson has won a lot of public records lawsuits, and believe us when we say, this one is the biggest slam dunk. That leads us to be extremely suspicious about why the Village of Salem Lakes doesn’t want the public to know about the failed leadership of the new Fire Chief, James Lejcar. Then we remembered, there is an election in April.

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Kevin Mathewson
Editor, Kenosha County Eye
(Photo by Daniel Labelle)

“I’m sorry to the taxpayers in The Village of Salem Lakes. I’m sorry that you will have to foot my legal fees and filing costs when I am successful in court. However, the media can’t allow the government to act with such disregard for the law. I pledge to release these records as soon as a judge orders them to be turned over to me. Any punitive damages awarded to me will go back to a Village of Salem Lakes non-profit charity,” Mathewson said Thursday night. “The taxpayers of this beautiful village deserve better.”

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9 Responses

  1. Why would this Village hold back on information? Would it make more sense to just give the information? Otherwise, will many more stories be written about them? Maybe the Village likes reading stories about them. Yeah, that’s probably it?

  2. The Village of Salem Lakes is run by a bunch of self serving clowns and I commend you Kevin for your diligence!
    Where’s the Kenowhere News on this one?
    Where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire and the only reason to deny your request is to cover up potential illegal activities by the clowns in charge!
    I am proud of my fellow citizens who delivered the message on Tuesday that we tax payers are tired of this behavior and “there’s a new sheriff in town”!
    Keep up the fine work Kevin – we tax payers appreciate it!

    8
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  3. I suspect that if the village idiots who denied performing, the legally required to fill request, were held personally accountable for all court costs they created, (rather than it being a taxpayer burden as it is now), things would change quickly….
    Perhaps there needs to be some new rules created concerning these types of things, I’d be willing yo to bet they wouldn’t spend their own money so frivolously without care .

    1. True, but sadly, you would not get quality officials anywhere if they were in danger of being sued and losing everything but their house and one car, every time they voted on something or made a statement. Hopefully there’s some middle ground, but I can’t imagine anything but the current almost blanket immunity being doable. That said, we must never give up on our public records laws, because with people like Kevin, they are the best solution for making public, “who said/did what and when”.

  4. It is so great that we have you out there digging up news Kevin. It seems the Kenosha News is only interested in reprinting the same articles multiple times in the newspaper even on the same day rather than get off their A’s and do some investigating. This is what reporters are supposed to do, speak truth to power.

  5. Any update on this? Our vote is coming up in 1.5 weeks and we are curious where this stands? Not that it is going to affect my vote :), but wanted to find out what had come of this and what news about the current village Administration have to say about, and what the exit interviews had said about all of the staff that has left the Fire Department as well as any other information that may be good to know before we vote.

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