News – November 1, 2011

Cause of Death Still Unknown in Speedway Crash

11/1/11 – The cause of death for a race car driver over the weekend at Columbus 151 Speedway still hasn’t been determined. Columbia County officials say it’s still unclear if the 52-year-old man died from injuries related to the crash or whether it was from a medical issue before the crash. According to various media reports, other drivers reported seeing the man’s head go limp prior to the crash. Authorities haven’t released the victim’s name and the owner of the racing series told the man’s family he wouldn’t release the name either.

DOJ Meets With Carol’s Tour Victims

11/1/11 – The State Attorney Generals Office held a meeting Monday night on the investigation into fraud complaints surrounding the closure of a defunct Beaver Dam travel agency. Carol’s Tours closed its doors in January of 2008. In the months that followed, over 100 complaints were reported from customers who deposited money for trips they claim were never fulfilled. Assistant Attorney General Richard Defour says the investigation is “essentially complete” and if charges are filed it will happen by the end of next week. Restitution is estimated at around $300,000. Dufour said very little yesterday about the investigation or those involved. He would not confirm the number of people under investigation but did say there have been negotiations with some of the parties involved. Defour said that he has spoken directly with the majority owner of the business, Deb Paul, who he says does not have an attorney. Defour also said that he spoke to the attorney’s who represent employee Lisa Hopper. A member of the audience said that Hopper was a victim and should not be under investigation which drew some applause. Another audience member questioned why some public documents have listed only “Hopper’s” name. In response, Special Agent Kyra Schallhorn with the Division of Criminal Investigation said that she divided her case file into two parts (quote) “merely as a function of the paperwork.” While the allegations are all part of one investigation, Schallhorn says one part of the file was called “Carol’s Tours” which she says related to the business in general. The other part of the file was labeled “Lisa Hopper” which was about the employee. She says, though, the name of the case file (quote) “does not have anything to do with who is the defendant, per se.” As far as charges, Defour says the harshest charge he could file is Class G felony Theft which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison; that breaks down to five years incarceration and five years of extended supervision, on each count. The court would be able to monitor restitution only during supervision. After supervision has ended, any restitution that remains unpaid would have to be sought in civil court and would no longer be exempt from a bankruptcy filing.

BDUSD Approves Budget

11/1/11 – The Beaver Dam School Board unanimously approved a tax levy of nearly $13.9-million as a part of the 2011-2012 budget last night. That’s down 12.3-percent from the last budget and results in a 92-cent drop in the mill rate to $9.03 per $1,000 of assessed value. The large drop in the levy and mil rate came as a result of referendum debt from the building of Prairie View Elementary coming off the books. And the drop would have been even greater had property values in the district not decreased by 3.3-percent. However, Business Services Director Andrew Sarnow says the district also had to cut about $3-million from the budget due to state aid cuts as part of the upheaval in Madison last spring. They were able to do that with the employee contributions to health insurance and pensions as well as a record number of retirements. Sarnow says he’ll take about a week off from budget work before starting on next year’s budget, which will likely feature even more cuts. A tax rate of $9.03 means a taxpayer with property valued at $150,000 would pay $1,354 for the school portion of their tax bill.

Conceal Carry Law Goes into Effect

11/1/11 – Today’s the day Wisconsin becomes the 49th state to let law-abiding residents carry concealed weapons. But the first state permits won’t be issued for a few weeks. And if you’re caught carrying a hidden weapon before then, police say you could face a criminal misdemeanor

charge. Milwaukee Police say they won’t hesitate to arrest those packing hidden heat without permits. Police Chief Ed Flynn wanted that to be a felony, but he couldn’t convince lawmakers to go that far. He says criminals already carry concealed weapons without permits, and the new penalties won’t stop them. The only ones who can carry hidden weapons legally today are those who live in 26 states who have valid concealed carry permits. Wisconsin residents with permits in other states will have to get a permit here as well. An overflow crowd attended a meeting in Milwaukee last night to get answers about the new law. But District Attorney John Chisholm said many questions won’t be answered until the law’s in place for awhile. He says it will take time to sort out all the issues involved. Meanwhile, Wisconsin senators will be able to carry hidden guns when they meet — but those who watch them cannot. The Senate’s leadership panel voted 3-to-2 yesterday to ban guns from the gallery of the chamber.

Former Benvenuto’s Manager Accused of Embezzlement

11/1/11 – A Beaver Dam woman is accused of stealing money from the restaurant she managed. Casey Sweetman is charged with Computer Crimes – Modifying Data, a felony that carries a maximum three-and-a-half year prison sentence, upon conviction. The 23-year-old allegedly embezzled $3500 from the Benvenuto’s Restaurant in Beaver Dam in a scheme involving gift cards. According to the criminal complaint, Sweetman would pocket money from bills paid in cash and then search their computer database for random customers with gift cards and zero-out their account to make-up the difference. An audit was performed after several customers complained about having zero balances on what should have been valid gift cards. A signature bond was set at $1000 during an Initial Appearance yesterday and a preliminary hearing is on the calendar for next month.

Assembly to Vote on Teacher Standards Bill

11/1/11 – The Wisconsin Assembly will vote today on a bill to let public schools discipline-or-fire teachers whose students don’t score high enough on state tests. Two years ago, Democrats voted to let teachers be evaluated on the basis of their students’ performance. But they couldn’t be disciplined for it — and critics said it was one reason Wisconsin was rejected in a request for millions of federal stimulus dollars for public schools. Now, Republicans are pushing the measure to try and make teachers more accountable. G-O-P senators got the bill passed in that house last week. If it passes in the Assembly, it goes to Governor Scott Walker for his signature. Also today, the Assembly is scheduled to vote on a bill to revoke the state licenses of teachers who look at pornography on their work computers. The bill comes after Jeff Nelson was quietly allowed to leave a school post in Madison for looking at porn at work — only to be arrested a few years later for seeking sex with a teen he met online while serving as New Holstein’s superintendent. He got five years in prison for that.

Fitzgerald Hosting Tele-Town Hall, Also On WBEV

11/1/11 – State Senator Scott Fitzgerald is holding a Telephone Town Hall Meeting Tuesday night for residents in his 13th State Senate District. The Juneau Republican is expected to discuss the latest from Madison, including the Special Session on Jobs, pending legislation and the state budget but will also take comments and questions from constituents. Fitzgerald says he is taking advantage of new telephone technology that is being used in other legislative districts. He will continue to host regular in-person office hours as the legislative session progresses. In addition, constituents can contact his office at 888-291-3489 with questions, comments or additional information on specific issues. Fitzgerald will also be out guest on Tuesday’s Community Comment program on 1430AM beginning at 12:35pm. The Telephone Town Hall Meeting will be hosted at 7pm, toll-free, by calling 877-229-8493 and entering ID code 18973 when prompted.