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Disbarred Women And Children’s Horizons Executive Director Allegedly Practicing Law Without A License

Jennifer Paine – Executive Director of Women and Children’s Horizons

The executive director of Kenosha’s Women and Children’s Horizons is being accused of practicing law without a license. Last Friday, November 17, 2023, Paine filed a lawsuit against Wisconsin Balance of State COC in Eau Claire County Circuit Court on behalf of Women and Children’s Horizons. She begins the lawsuit by writing:

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“NOW COMES the Plaintiff, WOMEN AND CHILDREN’S HORIZONS, INC, by and though its executive director, pro se…”

As a former lawyer, Paine either knew, or should have known that she cannot file a lawsuit on behalf of a corporation because she is not a licensed attorney. She was disbarred in Michigan and lost an appeal.

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According to a 8-count findings document outlining an investigation into misconduct, Paine was disbarred May 20, 2023. The documents says in part, “After proceedings conducted pursuant to [Michigan Supreme Court Rules], the panel found, based on [Paine’s] admissions to all of the misconduct set forth in both formal complaints, that [Paine] committed professional misconduct during her representation of four different clients in their respective divorce and post-judgement divorce matters, while representing a client in adoption proceedings and in her own criminal matter…..

The State of Michigan Attorney Discipline Board, in the letter seems to question Paine’s integrity, mentioning her flawed honesty, trustworthiness, and fitness as a lawyer. The Board also used words like fraud and deceit. They pointed out what appears to be theft, as she reportedly withheld money from clients. The Board also called Paine incompetent.

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Nicole Rizzo-Beddigs (D) – Local Attorney and President Women and Children’s Horizons
(law office website)

KCE told its readers about Paine’s disbarment on August 15, 2023. The community was outraged, but the board of directors for WCH took no action and defended their leader. The board didn’t talk then and they aren’t talking now. Ironically enough, Nicole Rizzo-Beddigs (D), the president of the board, is a Wisconsin Licensed attorney. We asked her why she authorized the lawsuit and she didn’t respond. Retired court commissioner John Plous, also an attorney, declined comment. Former board president, Joe Riesselmann, a Kenosha Police Lieutenant, resigned shortly after the public found out about Paine’s past disbarment and credibility issues.

Kenosha Attorney Eric Olson
(File Photo by Kevin Mathewson, Kenosha County Eye)

Kenosha attorney Eric Olson, of Olson and Olson attorneys told KCE Monday that the statute and case law is clear. Olson pointed KCE to Jadair v. US Fire Case which says:

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¶22 Under the plain language of the rules and statutes, we conclude that only lawyers can appear on behalf of, or perform legal service for, corporations in legal proceedings before Wisconsin courts. The intent of the legislature is clear. The only exception the legislature has made to the unauthorized practice of law statute is the exception contained in Wis.Stat. § 799.06(2) for actions filed in small claims court. When the legislature specifically enumerates certain exceptions to a statute, we will presume that the legislature intended to exclude any other exceptions. Georgina G. v. Terry M., 184 Wis.2d 492, 512, 516 N.W.2d 678 (1994).

“Her procedural misunderstanding and unlawful conduct will only delay resolution to this very serious problem, which could result in lost housing for abused women and their children. I doubt that any circuit court judge will allow a non-attorney to prosecute this injunction request. She should have hired a licensed attorney,” Olson told KCE Monday afternoon.

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Women and Children’s Horizons is one of the oldest domestic violence and sexual assault services providers in Wisconsin. According to the IRS website, the tax-exempt organization has an annual budget of about $2,000,000 and the mission statements is “…To Provide support, shelter, education, training and healing services to victims of sexual and domestic abuse, their families, and the community.”

According to the lawsuit, Wisconsin Balance of State COC is non-profit corporation providing housing assistance services through funding with the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). WSBCOC provides rapid rehousing services to victims of domestic violence and their children in Kenosha County, and has since 2015. WSBCOC provides WCH with rental reimbursement, a wage for case management, and some administrative/office expenses.

WSBCOC cut off funding to WCH becuase WCH Director Paine failed to provide contractually-required statements to WSBCOC. Paine reached out to HUD for assistance. WCH insiders told KCE that Paine is using the confidentiality rules to cover up for her errors. Pained asked an Eau Claire County Circuit Court judge for an emergency injunction. Judge Emily Long denied Paine’s request for an emergency injunction stating “petition does not set forth sufficient facts to support the requested injunctive relief.” According to Paine, if the money is not awarded, many women and children will be evicted, starting early December.

KCE reached out to the Kenosha and Eau Claire County DA’s to see where if anywhere she would be prosecuted for practicing law without a license. Eau Claire DA Peter Rindal said his office wouldn’t be investigating the matter. Kenosha DA Mike Graveley didn’t respond.

In Wisconsin, practicing without a liaw license can be punished by a fine “not less than $50 nor more than $500 or imprisoned not more than one year in the county jail or both, and in addition may be punished as for a contempt.”

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56 Responses

  1. …And the hits just keep on happening……

    This will make it tougher for her to eventually reinstate her license. Probably not going to see a criminal prosecution. It’s not as if she advertised and hired herself out as a lawyer, etc.

    1. This is typical Jennifer Paine behavior. Not doing her job and using any stall tactics she can with the court system. She will blame the courts and hud for no funding to the needy. Yet all this is her fault because SHE didn’t do the proper paper work. That’s her 100 percent. Money is being wasted and or taken and it’s being overlooked. Shame

  2. I don’t care to comment on her appearances. It’s h the behavior and mismanagement, treatment of victims that concerns me.
    No name

    1. So what if she is going to be taking funds from this non profit?
      Bottom line she was DISBARRER, so yes it does matter. There needs to be a morally sounds person protecting this battered, beaten population. But your right… that headpieces in Michigan, I’m sure it won’t happen here too…smh

      1. She has scammed so many in Michigan. It’s completely laughable that this place even hired her. Let alone gave her so much control of funding.

    1. These organizations often draw those who couldn’t make it in the normal business world or those with a specific ax to grind but no ax grinding skills. Add that to Kenosha’s long history of embracing whack jobs, race-baiters, and losers, and refusing to rigorously prosecute them when they cross the line, and we will keep getting the same over and over and over again. Kind of like Parkside and Carthage college.

  3. Golly gee——- another nutcase running an agency in Kenosha. Can this place get any creepier? Someone in Madison open Dodge as a mental institution once again.

  4. Ok but you can’t expect Curella Deville to stand up for those in need. She’s a very self centered. All she’s interested in is that dalmatian jacket…smh

  5. If y’all only knew the half of what she had done to that agency you would not believe it. It is a shame that the board showed her to do everything she has done from changing timesheet to causing a very hostile environment, treating clients like absolute crap and refusing to advocate for them she needs to go so that the staff that was all there before her can come back and get it back running correctly.

    1. I agree! She started off cool but became extremely passive aggressive to the point of gas lighting. As a person who was previously in an unhealthy relationship, that kind of behavior was not appreciated at all! WCH needs to do away with her and get someone in there who is actually competent and caring vs what they have now!

  6. This kind of action is nothing new from her. This organization really needs to reconsider who they hire. Just look at her past history.

  7. Karma has finally come to collect. Jennifer is a fowl excuse for a woman and a human being. She’s ruined so man single fathers chances and a real case or made them start from complete scratch. The thousands of dollars she’s stole from my family will never be recovered but this is a sweet little treat to see. I’m glad that horse face wicked witch nose having pos is finally getting what she deserves

  8. It’s astonishing to me that the board with so many so called “educated” high profile members of our community would allow a woman accused of having “no candor”, and never disclosed any of this to wch board until recently. They decided after all of the 2nd hand information was presented to back her. Even tho she wasn’t forthright with them. Complaints of inappropriate behavior, abuse to staff and clients, all dismissed nothing properly investigated. The board had a chance to help staff clients and the agency as a whole, instead they chose to dismiss the hard working dedicated staff that had that place running in tip top shape even when there was no ED and take the word and defend the acts of a thief and liar. I think Joe R jumped ship thinking he couldn’t be implicated or face any type of shame in all of this chaos! You were there! You knew everything and people tried to reach out to you Joe, Clara and Sandy! Your attitude and behavior towards the people who actually ran that place and made you all look good. You traded for this! Don’t be surprised by the comments and disgust you all will be met with! Sucks to be all of you!

    1. When the donations start running out, because people are becoming aware of who they have hired, they will then get rid of her, but until then shame on them! Dressing up in their fancy outfits having their fancy dinners. While those who are truly in need get scraps. Jennifer has zero credibility. Look at her history.

  9. Will the useless board look the other way AGAIN? This is shameful, one person has taken this agency down right before their eyes!

    They should all be fired ( Cruella and the entire board!) What about the clients? They are the ones that are going to suffer more than they already do!

    Don’t donate to this agency again until they get things under control and determine where the money is going! So many good people have quit or been fired. I guess she didn’t want anyone there that would question her or know what they were doing!

  10. There are two attorneys on the board and the head of HR for Kenosha County, Where were they? They wanted to run that place so bad and have 100% control and look what happened. They are going to put people on the street during the cold winter HOLIDAY!! What kind of people are you! How do you sleep at night knowing the place is infested with roaches and bed bugs. Which was never the case when she “JMP Esquire” wasn’t in charge. Where is the old staff? Did they all resign? Yes. They did. Who can work under those conditions. Believe it or not the HEAD OF KENOSHA COUNTY HR TOLD wch staff when they asked for a meeting with them that they are merely volunteers. They all have full time jobs, and cannot be expected to handle staff/client concerns. For being on a board for as many years as they have been, they forgot to do their homework.
    The board has a huge responsibility it’s called Duty of Care
    This means that a board is expected to exercise reasonable care when they make a decision on behalf of the organization, as they would in their personal and professional life. Duty of care requires that you pay attention to the organization’s activities and operations. There are 3 legal duties they must follow

    Duty of care: Handle the business of the organization with the care an ordinary and prudent person would use.
    Directors must be engaged. They should actively participate in meetings, review documentation, ask questions, learn about the activities of the organization, understand risks and be intentional when deciding what risks are acceptable. As stewards of the organization, board members must think short-term and long-term, have the depth of knowledge to understand documents like financial statements and strategic reports, and know what questions to ask internal and external advisers.
    2. Duty of loyalty
    Duty of loyalty: Act in the best interests of the organization, even if it means forfeiting an opportunity that would benefit them personally.
    Directors must not profit at the expense of the organization, or receive unreasonable compensation or benefit from the activities of the organization or from serving on its board. They should ensure that the organization’s conflict of interest policy is followed. That may mean disclosing on Form 990 any compensation, familial relationships or business transactions between the nonprofit organization and themselves (or their family member, business interest or other relevant connections).
    Directors should avoid even an appearance of impropriety that they are benefiting at the expense of the organization. Any member of governance who is potentially conflicted should recuse themselves from deliberations and decision making related to a proposed transaction in which their objectively may be compromised.
    3. Duty of obedience
    Duty of obedience: Work to ensure the organization follows all applicable laws, complies with all reporting requirements and follows the organization’s articles and bylaws.

    Directors should affirm that the organization is working to fulfill its mission and purposes, while complying with all laws and required reporting.

    There is no oversight. How does an ED do the finances, payroll, HR, Grant Writing, as well as “run” every dept in the agency. And the BOD just signs off on everything 🤔 and how long have these board members been on the board? I think it’s time to clean that house!!! They need a board who actually cares about the mission the participants and staff. These people would walk into shelter never even acknowledged the clients or staff. These board members just liked photo ops in the kenosha news and other social media sites. They liked the prestige. But behind closed doors it was a horror story.

  11. I used to be a client when miss Cynthia and miss Lena was there. The staff might have seemed unfair at times but the more you listen they really cared about us. That place was clean, there was no fighting in there they didn’t play about that or disrespect to staff. They talk to us they help us with everything all we had to do was ask or they would come to us and ask what they could do to help. There was order care and real services.
    This new lady said she got rid of all the old staff because they were not doing their job she accused some of stealing. I think she’s stealing! There’s no food in that place now it is beyond filthy she let’s anyone and everyone in. I was told she even hired a client living there to work! She just kicked out a real victim with bruises and cuts from abuser out of shelter and let the lady who was bullying and threatening her to stay! That poor lady wasn’t even from around here! Someone really needs to step in and get this place back yo where it was when thee other people were there. They cared. This new crazy lady gave me her phone number! Then when I called she said I was inappropriate for calling her. Wtf. She crazy. The people who are victims really need that place. She is evil for what she has done to this place. Them other staffs would never let that place get to the condition its in now. I say bring them back and get rid of that crazy hair lady

  12. To whom it may concern:

    This letter is to address the ongoing situation at Women & Children’s Horizons and how under the leadership of the current executive director Ms. Jenifer Paine has impact the agency, its staff and above all else the clients and the community WCH serves. Because the mission of the agency has been compromised, we consider it important that all are aware.

    Listed below are the behaviors and practices Ms. Paine has executed while in the agency that has harmed many individuals:

    • The executive director had fostered a negative work environment through email. Instead of opting to resolve conflicts in person, Ms. Paine continuously chooses to resolve agency dilemmas over email that involved hostile, dismissive, or commanding remarks. Her email etiquette was often rooted in intimidation and abusive language. Employees were threatened with termination if her demands weren’t met, and other employees were humiliated agency wide.
    • New policies and procedures were implemented at her discretion bypassing the authority and input of department heads who ran these programs. Ms. Paine expected new policies like reserving hotels and uber rides for clients to be enforced without a formal procedure in place. Ms. Paine also displayed a habit of overstepping decisions made at the shelter. Most prominently, she would accept callers who were already screened and disapproved a shelter stay by advocates.
    • Numerous attempts to oversee the shelter advocate work schedule were made, a duty reserved for the shelter manager. Digital timesheets have been altered due to overtime and lunch breaks. The shelter manager at the time did her best to adhere to and avoid the use of excessive overtime on shelter staff employees. Changes were often made due to circumstances. Personal lives and other employment limit part-time and relief staff from choosing to pick up shifts. It’s here where shelter staff, despite limiting their overtime, will pick up shifts so neither shelter nor the clients remain unattended. Lunch breaks were also cut from work hours. The DWD states: “Employers must pay employees for “on duty” meal periods. An “on duty” meal period is one where the worker is not provided at least 30 consecutive minutes free from work, or where the worker is not free to leave the employer’s premises. Employers may not deduct from a worker’s wages for authorized breaks of less than 30 consecutive minutes.” Shelter advocates are not at liberty to leave the shelter premises nor are they uninterrupted while in their office. During their supposed meal periods, advocates are interrupted by clients to make sure their needs are met or to answer crisis calls.
    • The executive director had taken it upon herself to approve punch in/punch out of all employees, a task that is supposed to fall to supervisors. Ms. Paine will approve the submitted punches despite being overtime, then disapprove the punches she approved. In addition, the executive director has been falsely informing the board that employees have been intentionally approving their own timesheets without the approval of the director.
    • The executive director has shown an unwillingness to respect clients’ wishes to not have visitors at the emergency shelter. Earlier this year, shelter staff were notified that WCH was chosen by UW—Parkside students to collaborate on a class project that was meant to aid the agency in better assisting clients. Shelter staff looking out for the best interest of the clients told the executive director that this would be something clients find uncomfortable in the home-like setting of shelter. Instead, staff suggested alternatives like speaking to clients more established such as those in RRH or selecting clients who would be open to the idea. Ms. Paine continued to work with the class and eventually allowed the students to visit the shelter. Despite that clients were told of the visit ahead of time and encouraged to speak with the visitors, clients chose not to participate and remain in their rooms. They compare it to having visitors in shelter to a zoo. Clients didn’t want to be looked at or questioned when they’re home. Later that evening after this incident, the executive director accused the shelter manager of insubordination and keeping clients from the students.
    • The executive director shared confidential information with the community. Another agency was given a false set of questions advocates do not use during a crisis call to determine if callers quality for WCH shelter or services. Whether or not this information was correct, it should not have been shared with other agencies as other workers tend to coach and are often overheard instructing callers on what to say to try and meet WCH’s criteria.
    • WCH employees are constantly told that the agency’s economic state is in constant flux, particularly that WCH’s budget is tight. Funds to buy shelter groceries or other necessary materials at given times are restrictive and limiting. Rapid Rehousing landlords did not receive their payments on time. However, hotel stays for crisis calls are encouraged and then discouraged because it is an extravagant expense if clients stay too long in a hotel. A fundraising event was on the cusp of being cut from the lineup of events this year but was still hosted despite the lack of funds. Backyard toys were never purchased over the summer by the supposed grant money WCH received. Ms. Paine also falsely claimed that a resource room was made available to clients when no such room existed. Employees are reminded of this budget by the ED stating that some employees weren’t going to get paid. Department heads are never informed how much funding they have.
    • In her time filling in at the shelter, the executive director failed to uphold the standards of shelter living during her shift. House rules are no longer applicable under Ms. Paine’s shift: assigned chores were not completed, ingredients for scheduled meals were no longer available or used, purchasing meals for shelter twice in one day, food was eaten in other places aside from the kitchen and dining room, clients did not sign out, allowing TV during unscheduled times, children were not with their parent, etc. Communication during shift exchange was minimal, with Ms. Paine insisting she must leave right away. As a result, boxes of commodities were not told to coming staff and sat overnight thawing producing a puddle of blueberries in the freezer room floor. When advocates tried to regain control of shelter’s topsy turvy state, they’re met with some iteration of “Well, I’ll talk to Jennifer.” They say this with authority because they have her personal number. She deliberately stated her authority, in doing so, she has stripped shelter staff of their authority on their shift. Many clients simply opted to contact her when rules weren’t to their liking, knowing that Jennifer would appease them rather than oppose. The rules set in place for clients were to ensure productivity during their stay and make the most use of their time to gain employment and stable housing. Shelter staff refrain from enabling maladaptive behaviors and guide clients to the necessary steps to an abuser-free lifestyle.
    • Clients have also noted the uneven treatment Ms. Paine has displayed, showering some clients with items and significantly less with others. Some have even speculated that she has shown a preference for Caucasian clients over African American clients, who has involved CPS/DCFS on such families on more than one occasion. One mother was falsely accused of not having custody/placement of her children and was forcibly removed from shelter with her children watching, an incident that traumatized two children. The executive director has on more than one occasion gaslighted (making someone else second guess their experiences, perceptions, and events) employees and clients alike.
    • After a time of crisis, shelter was shut down for three days, though if you ask Ms. Paine she will adamantly deny of shelter’s closure. Ms. Paine struggled to keep the shelter program afloat with many choosing to resign from the agency or were fired. Her new hires had hours, at best a day, of training before being thrust into the advocate office without proper training on crisis calls, shelter rules and policies, knowing the facility and its multiple closets, intakes/discharges, using the agency database to enter activities and events, etc. Many new advocates did not have their own username and password to enter necessary information into the agency database.
    • Numerous tries by advocates to contact the board of directors were made to voice their concerns. The board never made an attempt to hear the staff out. During shelter’s closure, staff met with the board at last. In this meeting, they made it clear that they trusted Ms. Paine’s leadership and would not listen to staff’s concerns.
    • Upon shelter’s reopening, Ms. Paine hired an active client living in shelter at the time. She offered this person a third shift position and to make it official. The client was promised payment, gift cards, and shoes. When employees were notified, they alerted the board of directors, despite Ms. Paine continuing to deny the allegations of sharing her number or speaking of such matters with a client. Texts between the two were shared to the board as evidence. In doing so, Ms. Paine began avoiding the client, telling employees she felt unsafe with her, and reprimanding the client for speaking up. The client was not paid for the single night that she worked. This was Ms. Paine’s first abuse of power, a trend that never stopped while shelter was under her care.
    • Another new hire worked three and a half consecutive shifts at shelter, a total of 28 hours, with her two young children and significant other staying at shelter as well due to the family’s homelessness. Ms. Paine was aware of this arrangement and permitted it. She even provided the new hire a stay at a local hotel WCH used to place clients in the past.
    • As more and more employees continued to flee what was occurring at WCH, the state of shelter continued to decline. There was an infestation of bed bugs and cockroaches drove clients out of shelter for a day, a plague that hadn’t bothered WCH’s shelter in years. Existing rules were put to an end—a delayed curfew unsuitable for families with young children, the TV could be on all day interfering with client productivity, and toilet paper rolls were to be handed out individually to families/clients converting it to be a higher expense.
    • Ms. Paine has also been harassing former employees, accusing them of taking WCH property with them after their departure. She insists former employees have taken with them key fobs, keys, and phones when in reality these items have been at WCH. She has also made false claims as to why some employees were terminated, all of which allegations were never proven or held any truth at all.

    For these reasons, no long-term shelter advocates remained with the agency. No one could bear to be a part of the abuse or unethical practices exhibited by the executive director the last several months. It is shameful that the agency has done nothing to question or investigate these behaviors. Our hopes are that this letter will bring forth awareness under which condition WCH is ran. We also hope that the community will do what the staff could not—hold up a mirror to the harsh reality WCH faced and make Ms. Paine accountable for her actions.

    Former WCH employees

      1. I don’t see Ms. Paine defending herself…doesn’t matter, she is a liar and can’t be trusted. The Kenosha community deserves better than this. Her immediate termination should be demanded in addition the entire board should resign. Someone better check the financials for the past year and a half. She and the board need to be held accountable. How many strikes is she going to get before she is out.

        1. Someone should also ask the finance company that quit on her why they quit. And why there’s no one overseeing the finances there

  13. So what if she is going to be taking funds from this non profit?
    Bottom line she was DISBARRER, so yes it does matter. There needs to be a morally sounds person protecting this battered, beaten population. But your right… that happened in Michigan, I’m sure it won’t happen here too…smh

  14. When the board of directors cares so little as to let this occur, when the district attorney shows no interest, major networks don’t even reply to emails, what can be said here that will make a difference. This has been a game of control, deception, and gaslighting. And it is, apparently, coming to its end. My personal wish here is that she and all members of the board that supported Paine rather than needs of shelter and its clients, be held accountable, fined if not jailed. To allow a facility as important and WCH to self-destruct is unconscionable. The only positive I see is that no one has been seriously injured – yet.

  15. Women and Children’s practicing law without a license? So what’s new? The Advocates give all these ideas to the victims that end when the DIstrict Attorney puts to an end by offering a deal. This is not news. It’s a great place however some staffers should limit their role as it is prescribed by the Law.
    Good catch Atty. Olson! Good job Matt Kevignston

    1. No. Women and Children’s Horizons aren’t practicing law. Jennifer Paine the Executive Director and recently disbarred attorney. She had been practicing since she started there. As a matter of fact, she would post Good Morning from your favorite attorney from Pinnacle law firm and ED from Horizons, not Women and Children’s Horizons, just Horizons.
      So, no it was her. Not the agency. But, I agree, advocates are there to support and advocate, not give any interpretation of the law.

  16. This person should not be working for any domestic violence group or shelter . She was reprimanded by a a judge for trying to break a protection order and harassing a dv victim for her client .

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