Former county employees in WI charged with theft, misconduct

Adam Tobias
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Jun 24, 2014 12:54 PM
Former county employees in WI charged with theft, misconduct

By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter

LAKE GENEVA, Wis. — Two former Lake Geneva Street Department employees have been charged in Walworth County Circuit Court with theft and misconduct in public office.

FACING CHARGES: Two former Lake Geneva employees have been charged with misconduct in public office and theft.

Ronald Carstensen is accused by the state of giving away more than $25,000 of city salt and sand to private companies between 2009 and 2013 while employed as the superintendent of the Lake Geneva Street Department, according to a criminal complaint.

The city contracts with Walworth County for road salt, but county policy prohibits municipalities from selling salt to private entities, Walworth County Business Services Director Peggy Watson told authorities in January.

Carstensen, who was superintendent from 2006 to 2013, also is alleged to have retained possession of a $20.06 sales tax refund check that was supposed to go to the city.

Former Lake Geneva Street Department working foreman Donald Hoeft also has been charged by the state with allegedly failing to give the city proceeds from recycling city oil and scrap metal, according to the criminal complaint.

Hoeft, who worked for the street department for 18 years, told police in January that $480 in oil proceeds were placed into the agency’s “slush fund,” which is used for paying cell phone bills and food and parties for street department employees.

The criminal complaint also states Hoeft generated about $8,750 in recycling proceeds by dropping off scraps at local recycling centers. Hoeft told authorities he would give the money to Carstensen, who told Hoeft he was giving the city “some of the money,” according to the complaint.

Hoeft also is accused of falsely reporting community service hours a probationer worked for the street department.

Initial appearances for Carstensen and Hoeft are scheduled for July 22 in Walworth County Circuit Court.

If convicted on all counts, Carstensen could face up to $95,000 in fines and/or 34 years and 3 months in prison. Hoeft could face up to $60,000 in fines and/or 12 years and 9 months in prison if convicted on all counts.

“While the defendants have been charged in criminal complaints, they are presumed innocent and the state will need to prove them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said in a news release.

The charges are a result of an investigation by the Lake Geneva Police Department and the Walworth County Sheriff’s Department.

Wisconsin Reporter on Tuesday morning tried contacting Lake Geneva City Administrator Dennis Jordan and Mayor Jim Connors, but those phone messages were not immediately returned.

Contact Adam Tobias at atobias@watchdog.org or follow him on Twitter @Scoop_Tobias