The Northwestern

Sat 8-June-2002

Paulus will face panel

DA is ready to go on record 

BY ALEX HUMMEL
of the Northwestern

A previous obligation prevented the Winnebago County District Attorney from appearing before the county’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on Friday to answer questions about allegations of bribes influencing criminal charge reductions.

The committee chairman, Supervisor Harvey Rengstorf, said Joseph Paulus told him he could not attend the committee’s 9:30 a.m. meeting. 

A district attorney’s office receptionist said Paulus was in court Friday morning.

Rengstorf said Paulus had no qualms about coming to a future meeting. 

"He said he would come and see us anytime we could get together," Rengstorf said. 

The committee oversees the district attorney’s office’s budget and operations. Its members agreed Friday to see if Paulus can attend a meeting later this month to address the allegations. 

Paulus "is due the respect of the whole committee to listen," said Supervisor Bill Wingren, a committee member who two weeks ago made the request for Paulus to discuss the allegations before the committee. 

"He’s come before us before to give us information," Wingren said. "I don’t think this would change from past practice."

In mid-May, allegations surfaced of defendants paying select defense attorneys bribes in exchange for prosecutor- approved reductions of drunken driving charges. Assistant District Attorney Edmund Jelinski, who announced his bid for district attorney April 9, was fired May 14.

A former district attorney’s office domestic abuse investigator who Paulus reassigned in February, Menasha Police Department Officer Ann Gollner, said she forwarded to the FBI cases suspected of involving bribes.

Jelinski charges Paulus with corruption and abuse of power under his watch. He said he first contacted the FBI in January, alerting the agency to several cases.

 Paulus said Gollner and Jelinski have been complicit in an effort to embarrass him for political purposes. 

Former Oshkosh Mayor and city Councilor Melanie Bloechl, who supported Jelinski at his candidacy announcement, visit¬ ed the judiciary committee Friday and criticized Sheriff Michael Brooks for not delegat¬ ing a recent internal investiga¬ tion related to the controversy to an outside agency.

Paulus said Jelinski improperly used a county drug unit’s recording device to secretly record their conversations. A brief investigation determined the allegation was "unfounded." Jelinski said he used his own microcassette recorder to document their working relationship, not to seek incriminating statements related to the bribery allegations. 

Bloechl said Brooks should have passed the investigation on because he has been a politically "vocal and financial" supporter of Paulus.

"I do not believe this was a wise move by our sheriff’s department," Bloechl said.

Brooks was on vacation Friday, according to the county’s chief deputy, and did not immediately return a phone message.

In his request for the wire investigation, Paulus cited that Gollner’s husband, Menasha police Officer Chris Anderson, is a member of the county drug unit. 

While he has yet to be interviewed in the investigation, two of Anderson’s supervisors said Anderson told them he had no knowledge of Jelinski using a wire device, the report states. 

Alex Hummel: (920) 426-6669 or ahummel@smgpo.gannett.com
 

John Maloney
Police/Prosecutor Misconduct