Salem Lakes Village President Diane Tesar called a special meeting for Monday, March 27, 2023 to discuss a possible settlement with KCE. They will meet in secret and behind closed doors. KCE has learned that the Fire Chief, James Lejcar is universally disliked by his firefighters, paramedics and EMT’s. KCE was told that the department is losing staff rapidly and they are short on firefighters. We made a public records request for recent letters of resignation. It was denied by Village attorney Richard Scholze. It is our theory that Scholze knew that the number of resignations would make Salem Lakes voters lose confidence in the the four elected board members who are likely to be voted out on April 4. Of course, we sued.
We got the chance to depose Village President Diann Tesar, Village Administrator Mike Murdock, and Former Village Clerk Shannon Hahn. We learned a lot on Wednesday. Village Administrator Mike Murdock ,who makes more than $140,000 annually, told us that he was a Battalion Chief for the department (second in charge) until just a couple of months ago. He resigned at about the same time that KCE started sniffing around the village.
Clerk Shannon Hahn, who had previously given KCE a letter of resignation for an employee of the Village testified that she was working on giving us the letters from the fire department, until Village attorney Rich Scholze told her not to. He then used her email account to tell us the request was denied.
Tesar, under oath, told us that she had never received a complaint about the Fire Chief’s performance – that is, until we confronted her with evidence. She then changed her sworn testimony. She seemed defeated. “I acted too late. I acted too late,” she said. When asked about how many firefighters left recently, she told us about 20. This is a number consistent with what our sources have told us.
Richard Scholze, who is a municipal judge in the town of Burlington, dealing with non-serious matters, like parking tickets, cited Wis. Stat. 19.36(10) as the reason why he ordered the Village not to turn over these records. Anyone with a slight knowledge of the public records law, knows that this is an outrageous defense and it will never hold up in court.
Immediately after we filed the lawsuit, we offered to settle the case. Apparently, Scholze never brought our settlement offer to the board who never called a special board meeting. Under State law, if the Village declines an offer of settlement, and we win even $1 more than our offer, we will be awarded double fees. Right now our fees are at $644.50 ($184.50 filing fee, $210 service of process, and $250 deposition fee for court reporter.) If we win, we will also be rewarded statutory damages of $100. Our offer was for $1 less than what we will win in court. If the Village, tomorrow, denies our settlement offer, we will be awarded double fees and collect $1,489 from the Village of Salem Lakes taxpayers and get the records. As promised, we will donate the difference between our costs, and what we win back to the Salem Lakes community.
Tomorrow, the board is expected to dig in its heals and deny our offer settlement, most likely based on Scholtze’s bad legal advice. KCE also asked for punitive damages because we believe Scholze knows better or should know better.
Also tomorrow, is a special Fire Commission meeting to take up a complaint against the Fire Chief and Fire Inspector. The duo has allegedly been unlawfully tough on business and trying to shut many of them down. The complaint was made by Trustee Ron Gandt, who the business owners tout as being their “only ally.”