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Paul's Falls

I have lived in the Falls since 1968. My great-great grandfather was one of the village founders. I have served the community in multiple ways: Firefighter, various boards and commissions and for many years was president of the Falls Cable Access Corp. Currently I own, and am active in, a restaurant equipment manufacturing company.

Jeff Davis Redux - Part 6

Local Elections

A look back at the darker days of Menomonee Falls Politics
taken from the pages of the

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)

Falls president expected to plead guilty to misdemeanors, resign

REID J. EPSTEIN, Journal Sentinel Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 
Published: January 17, 2005
Falls president expected to plead guilty to misdemeanors, resign Menomonee Falls Village President Jefferson Davis is expected to plead guilty Tuesday to misdemeanor charges and civil violations regarding his campaign finances and agree to resign from his office, a deal that would spare him jail time.

In return for the guilty plea, Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher is to drop the three felony counts against Davis, who was charged Dec. 7 with 29 counts of breaking the state's campaign finance law, said Davis' attorney, Michael Ganzer.

"It is our understanding that fines and forfeitures will be recommended," he said.

A source familiar with the case said Davis will resign as village president as part of the deal, but Bucher said he could not comment on the specifics of the plea negotiations.

Bucher also said the investigation into Davis' role in steering the Village Board to switch health insurance carriers for municipal employees to a company for which he was then a registered agent is "99 percent complete" and will likely end without charges.

"We believe the investigation will come up inconclusive for insufficient evidence," Bucher said.

Ganzer said his client has accepted his fate.

"I'm sure Jefferson Davis is both frustrated that the case will reach this conclusion but also satisfied that he is having the felony charges dismissed," Ganzer said. "This has been very difficult for both he and his family, and I'm sure he is looking forward to having all these matters resolved.

" Davis is scheduled to appear in court at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in front of Waukesha County Circuit Judge Lee S. Dreyfus Jr. He did not return phone calls seeking comment.

However, a Sunday night fax to the Journal Sentinel stated Davis would hold a news conference and "make an announcement" at 11 a.m. Tuesday at a Menomonee Falls bakery. The fax, on village stationery, added:

"A nearly 200-page and extremely revealing document will be made available to the public, press and media. . . . The village president will speak very frankly and openly about the events of the last two months and for that matter, the last two years that has affected the village and his life as well as the lives of nearly everyone in the community."

Unless Davis backs out of the plea deal, he will be the latest in a list of local politicians to resign and plead guilty to reduced charges. Milwaukee Aldermen Rosa Cameron and Jeff Pawlinski pleaded guilty to federal charges and left the Common Council in 2003. Both were sentenced to eight months in prison.

Milwaukee Ald. Paul Henningsen and state Sen. Gary George (D-Milwaukee) were found guilty in federal court trials and were sentenced to 33 months and four years in prison, respectively.

Legal wrangling

The deal marks the end of two months of legal maneuvering for Davis, who was arrested Nov. 15 after refusing to answer Bucher's questions about his campaign finances. On Dec. 7, Bucher charged Davis with 29 counts of violating the state's campaign finance law, including three felonies.

Had Davis been convicted of all the charges, he would have faced up to 12 1/2 years in prison and $45,000 in fines, though he could have faced much lower penalties.

Bucher said that if Davis had been forthcoming with investigators at the case's outset, he would never have had to file felony charges.

"We attempted to try to do this at the very beginning, but the response that I received from Mr. Davis was less than satisfactory," he said.

"We had no choice but to proceed with everything we had, assuming we were going to trial. Any prosecutor will tell you that when you think you're being rebuffed and going to trial, you go with everything you have," Bucher said.

Since the charges were filed, Bucher said he has seen "willingness from Mr. Davis to resolve this case."

The felony charges alleged that Davis filed and prepared a false campaign finance report, authorized political funds for non-political purposes and accepted a $15 contribution from the Menomonee Falls School District.

The criminal complaint details 60 checks totaling $2,230 written to Davis' campaign that he was accused of failing to report. It also lists electronic fund transfers made from the campaign account to Davis' personal checking account.

Bucher said the facts of the case are not in doubt.

"Our initial filing was reflective of the facts as we knew them then and know them now," he said.

Davis told a radio host Dec. 10 that he was ignorant of the intricacies of campaign finance law and had provided investigators with documentation proving his innocence. He also promised to resign if it was "the right thing for Menomonee Falls."

Davis did not file to seek re-election this April.

The plea and resignation would mark the end of what has been a turbulent 21 months in office for Davis, who was elected village president in April 2003 on a platform of reforming village government.

He led the board to pass a resolution promising three years of zero-increase tax levies. But many village initiatives he pushed, such as building a skateboard park, launching a village newsletter and offering tax incentives to a developer who planned to build a new hotel, fell flat.

He also faced personal problems, falling behind on his property taxes and child support and facing a gender harassment complaint from two female village employees. The complaint cost the village $9,000 to investigate before clearing Davis with an admonishment to change his behavior.

In October, the village trustees stripped Davis of his Village Hall office and keys because they said he had abused copy and coffee machines, acted childish and used his office as an "ego trip."

With Davis' resignation, Trustee Sharon Ellis, who is the chair of the village's General Government Committee, is to become interim village president until the April election.

Ellis, who was first elected in 2003, is running for re-election for her trustee seat against Joe Ostrosky, who is on the village's Fire and Police Commission.

Ellis said she would try to reach a consensus with the other four trustees on how to proceed with village business in Davis' absence

"I'll take it to my fellow trustees to find out how they would like to handle the next couple of months," she said.

Three men are seeking to replace Davis. David Dison, a schoolteacher, Jim Lape, a bus driver, and Rick Rechlicz, an attorney, are seeking the $7,500-a-year post.

Copyright (c) 2005, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already
copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)

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