The Northwestern

Paulus: No comment to committee
Bribe allegations ‘not fit for discussion’ 

By Alex Hummel
of the Northwestern

June 22, 2002 

Winnebago County District Attorney Joseph Paulus declined to comment Friday when given the opportunity by a county oversight committee to discuss allegations that bribes led to lenient or dismissed criminal charges under his watch. 

The committee members asked no questions of Paulus, but member Supervisor Bill Wingren asked if Paulus cared to address the matter.

“Bottom line is I view it as a political matter and one that’s not fit for discussion here today,” Paulus told the five-member county board Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, which oversees budget and operation for the district attorney’s office. “But I appreciate the opportunity.”

Paulus also will not disclose whether he’ll seek re-election after 13 years as Winnebago County district attorney. 

He told a reporter after his brief visit to the committee to introduce two new assistant district attorneys that he has had no contact with the FBI regarding the bribery allegations, which he calls a political “smear campaign” by two former employees -- one of whom seeks to unseat him. 

When asked if any attorneys within his office have had any contact with the FBI, Paulus said he had no knowledge of that and said he thought his staff would let him know if they did.

The FBI, while not confirming anything, is believed to be investigating whether select defense attorneys bribed prosecutors to win defendants reduced or dismissed criminal charges. 

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking toward the deadline for filing nomination papers in the district attorney’s race—one that has been intertwined with the bribery allegations.

Candidate Edmund Jelinski was fired as an assistant district attorney by Paulus in mid-May after reports surfaced he and Menasha Police Officer Ann Gollner informed the FBI of specific cases believed to have involved bribes. 

The two new assistant district attorneys Paulus introduced to the committee Friday are replacements for Jelinski and former Assistant District Attorney Thomas Chalchoff, Jelinski’s campaign manager.

Jelinski, Gollner and former Winnebago County Assistant District Attorney John Daniels, now an assistant in Outagamie County, said they have had contact with the FBI. Daniels said he has been questioned. 

Shortly before Jelinski’s firing, Deputy District Attorney John Jorgensen announced his intent to run for district attorney as a Republican as did Assistant District Brad Priebe, a Democrat.

Paulus, Jelinski, Priebe and Jorgensen have all filed initial declaration papers with the state elections board. Jelinski and Paulus have filed necessary financial interest statements. None has filed nomination papers yet, according to an elections board Web site and an employee of the elections board office.

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

John Maloney
Police/Prosecutor Misconduct