Kevin Mathewson, Editor of Kenosha County Eye, was awarded a judgement today in Kenosha County Circuit Court. The Village of Salem Lakes has two days to turn over the records requested, and a check for fees and damages.
Kenosha County Eye has been closely watching the Village of Salem Lakes. We were tipped off last year about a rogue government. We have uncovered much misconduct and bad government. Recently, the incumbent trustees did very poorly in the primary election with one losing his seat, and it’s likely the other three will lose their seats as well. Three challengers had huge wins and landed the top three spots.
Most of the complaints centered around Fire Chief James Lejcar and Fire Inspector Steve Ptaszynski, who many business owners contend are trying to shut down businesses over personal grudges. KCE was also told that the Fire Chief is such a bad leader, that many firefighters, paramedics, and EMT’s have left the department since Lejcar has taken over as chief. KCE asked the village, under the Wisconsin public records laws, for the letters of resignation of the employees that left in the last three years. Village President Diann Tesar stands behind Chief Lejcar, and that is why many residents of the Village oppose her re-election. KCE believes that between 20 and 30 hard-working fire department staff members have left in the three years, but we will know for sure within two days. The Village of Salem Lakes denied our request and we quickly sued. KCE made an offer to settle with the Village of Salem Lakes but the only trustee who seemed to question the denial was Trustee Ron Gandt. The rest of the board members wanted to fight until the end.
KCE spoke with a civil attorney that estimates that the village likely spent between $5,000 and $6,000 in attorneys fees, KCE’s fees, and damages. KCE was entitled to double damages, since the village declined an earlier offer to settle, but we declined in court today, because the hard-working taxpayers are the ones who are actually footing the bill.
Village Attorney Rich Scholze, of Wanasek, Scholze, Ludwig, Ekes & Wishau, S.C., should have advised the board to settle with KCE, but he gave them terrible legal advice. In court today, Mathewson sat at the plaintiff’s table and Scholze and Village Administrator Michael Murdock sat at the defendant’s table. Village President Diann Tesar and Fire Chief James Lejcar were also in court to show their support for not releasing the documents. Village Attorney Rich Scholze tried unsuccessfully to get today’s hearing moved until after the election.
Today in court, Judge Bruce E. Schroeder didn’t seem to buy Scholze’s argument and ordered the records, and fees to be turned over to Mathewson within two days. We emailed all trustees and did not receive any responses.
KCE promised to donate the money we won in damages to a Salem-Lakes area group. We have decided to donate that money to the Salem Lakes Area Business Owners Association.