Appleton Post-Crescent

Posted July 23, 2006

Editorial: Uncover the truth

Details of Paulus investigation must be public

Another chapter in the Joe Paulus saga is ending — at least for Paulus.

But what about for those who have been tied to Paulus? And what about for the public Paulus ultimately victimized? When will this saga really end?

A two-year investigation by the state Department of Justice has resulted in the former Winnebago County district attorney facing state felony charges of misconduct in office and conspiring to obstruct justice.

As part of a plea deal, the state is recommending that Paulus get two years in jail and five years of probation. That’s after he finishes serving the 58-month sentence he received on federal bribery charges in 2004.

The state charges announced last week might close the official book on Paulus. But the Joe Paulus story envelopes many more people than just Joe Paulus and Milton Schierland, the lawyer he conspired with in the bribery cases.

Paulus subverted the entire Winnebago County justice system. There’s a long list of people with a connection to him when he was district attorney who have had to face questions about if they were involved with him, what they knew about his misdeeds — and, often, how could they not have know about them?

Since the public ultimately was harmed by Paulus’ crimes and since the public has been paying for the state’s investigation, the public has the right to know everything that can be known about the investigation.

The Department of Justice has said it may ask Winnebago County Circuit Court Judge Scott Woldt to release most of the work of secret John Doe hearings that were part of the investigation. It would be an unusual request, but the department seems to understand the public interest at stake. It should follow through on that request, and Woldt should grant it.

Likewise, the state must release all other information it acquired. That includes the 50-page memorandum written by Winnebago County Assistant Dist. Atty. Michael Balskus that details his lengthy investigation, before Dist. Atty. Bill Lennon told him to turn over his work to the state.

Since the Paulus case became Balskus’ crusade in office, the public has a right to know what he found, and what he didn’t find.

In charging Paulus, the Department of Justice said it found no evidence that anyone else in the district attorney’s office or other attorneys were engaged in bribery. But it’s keeping the investigation open in case other leads surface.

Those whose reputations have been under Paulus’ shadow since allegations against him surfaced in 2002 should be cleared if the evidence shows that.

Just as important, the public deserves to know just what was going on in the Winnebago County justice system.
The state’s investigation of Joe Paulus needs full disclosure.

Police/Prosecutor Misconduct
Truth in Justice