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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.

Jefferson Davis Redux - Part 9

Local Elections

Last of a series. I'll return to real-time blogging next week.

 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)

January 29, 2005

Davis troubled by own finances Records show those nearest to him had concerns
REID J. EPSTEIN Staff Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  Davis troubled by own finances

Records show those nearest to him had concerns

Menomonee Falls - A month before he would be arrested for campaign finance violations, Jefferson Davis' personal finances were crumbling. He was behind on his child support payments and didn't have money to make his mortgage payments, according to police reports.

So Davis, then the Menomonee Falls village president, hit up Bill Exarhos, a financial planning colleague for AXA Equitable Life Insurance Co., for a $1,500 loan. Exarhos would be, according to police records, one of at least four people to lend Davis more than $1,500 during his term as village president

"He had asked me to loan him some money," Exarhos said in an interview this week. "He needed it to pay his bills."

The reports, released this week by the Menomonee Falls Police Department, paint a picture of a man struggling to make personal financial obligations while, at the same time, Davis' campaign treasurer and paid staff were questioning his handling of political contributions.

The investigation into Davis' campaign finances resulted in Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher charging Davis with three felonies and 26 other counts of violating the state's campaign finance law. Davis pleaded no contest Jan. 18 to reduced charges - three misdemeanors and five civil forfeitures. He was ordered to pay $1,480 in fines and court costs, and he resigned as village president.

The reports show Davis initially stalled police efforts to investigate his campaign finances. On April 13, Menomonee Falls Detective Dennis Moran told Davis he was beginning an investigation into the campaign finances and asked him to consent to allowing investigators to review his campaign's bank records.

The next day, Davis' attorney, Jeffrey Hughes of Menomonee Falls, called Moran to tell him that he had advised Davis to comply with the consent request and that Hughes would no longer represent the village president. Then Davis phoned Moran to say he was unable to come to the police station to sign the consent form because he was leaving on an out-of-town trip. Moran got a subpoena for the campaign's bank records a day later.

In 2003, when he unseated longtime Village President Joe Greco, Davis shattered village records by raising and spending more than $20,000 on the race for the part-time job that pays $7,500 per year. He spent so much time on the campaign that he rarely worked for AXA Equitable, Exarhos said. Weekly AXA Equitable sales reports show Davis earned few commissions, his colleague said, and he was almost never seen around the office after he began his campaign for political office, Exarhos said.

Six weeks before the election, the campaign hired Vi Hammelman, a veteran local political strategist. She described the main floor of Davis' $156,000 house as sparse, with little furniture and almost no food in the kitchen. So when Davis supporters asked Hammelman what they could do to help the campaign, she suggested they cook meals for Davis and his now-14-year-old son.

"I said, "Make something and drop it off." I felt bad for the kid," Hammelman said in an interview. "I didn't know what else to tell them."

Treasurer was concerned

At the same time, the campaign's treasurer, Lynn Prochaska, was expressing concern about Davis' record keeping. She told Johanna Fritz, a Grafton police officer who had also worked as the campaign's coordinator, that she was concerned about filling out campaign finance reports because she was not receiving from Davis the correct documentation of contributions and disbursements.

Sloppy records reported

Prochaska later told police in a tearful interview that she was "very uncomfortable due to the sloppiness of the records being kept by Mr. Davis and that she did not want to be held accountable for any mistakes or omissions on his part." To keep himself financially afloat, Davis borrowed thousands of dollars from friends and supporters. Exarhos, who has worked with Davis for 15 years, said he has lent Davis money three times in the last five years to help his colleague make mortgage payments. Exarhos said it is common for colleagues in the financial planning business to lend each other money, because they are paid on a commission basis and sometimes can't meet regular obligations.

"It's always predicated on the fact that there's a deal you've completed, and the money hasn't come in yet," he said.

But Davis had very little money coming in. Personal checking account records that Davis supplied to investigators show that between Jan. 13, 2004, and Feb. 13, 2004, he made $720.48 from commissions and officiating sporting events and $504.34 from his village president's salary. During that same period, he deposited $3,602 in line-of-credit advances. Rhonda Watton, a teacher at Templeton Middle School, told police Davis asked her for personal loans because he had "financial problems and is unable to pay his bills." She lent him $4,500 between May 2003 and November 2004.

Several personal loans

Records provided to police by Davis show that in January and February of 2004, he received a $1,500 loan from Julie West of Grafton and a $2,000 loan from Terry Lietzau of Colgate, who also supported Davis' campaign. Lietzau, Watton and West did not return phone calls requesting comment.

Prochaska, who declined to comment for this story, told police that she told Davis she needed to have more control over the campaign's checks. In the summer of 2003, Prochaska "became disenchanted" with the campaign's finances because she could not balance the account based on checks and receipts Davis supplied.

Davis did not return phone calls requesting comment for this story.

Prochaska said she did not help Davis with his campaign finances after July 2003. She and Davis had infrequent contact in 2004 until Davis called her Nov. 15 while he was en route to the district attorney's office.

"Lynn, pray for me," Davis said to her. He was arrested hours later. Copyright 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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