Posted Sept. 15, 2002
Allegations in District Attorney
By Alex Hummel
The outcome of Winnebago County’s Republican district attorney primary may be final, but investigations that started political dominoes tumbling linger.
The review of actions of one Menasha police officer who arguably sparked Winnebago County’s district attorney race with an alleged rogue investigation of possible bribery-influenced cases under incumbent Joseph Paulus’ watch may not be done into the fall or by the end of the year.
Waupaca County Assistant District Attorney William Lennon defeated Paulus and Edmund Jelinski in the Sept. 10 Republican primary.
Lennon will face Democrat Brad Priebe in the Nov. 5 general election. Priebe is an assistant district attorney in Winnebago County.
And the eventual outcomes of a subsequent FBI probe and state Office of Lawyer Regulation attorney conduct review are still up in the air.
The chief of the Menasha police department said the probe into Officer Ann Gollner, a former Paulus domestic abuse investigator and supporter of his political opponent Edmund Jelinski, has lingering questions despite completion of an outside Green Bay Police Department review.
Gollner argues she acted only as a dutiful citizen earlier this year in questioning a former drunken driving defendant in Oshkosh. She talked to Connie Christensen and obtained a statement suggesting a 1999 $5,000 payment to Christensen’s then-defense attorney Milton Schierland – now an assistant district attorney -- won her a case dismissal.
It was merely one example among several of shady deals Paulus may have made with defense attorney friends, Jelinski alleged in mounting his bid to unseat the 13-year incumbent.
But Paulus, deflecting the bribery allegations amid a re-election campaign he lost last week, dismissed the allegations as political mudslinging and said Gollner overstepped her authority in concocting them, acting as a police officer farming for dirt outside her jurisdiction.
Menasha Police Chief Robert Stanke said there are still questions whether Gollner’s actions were right or wrong based on the initial conduct report.
“There are some things that suggest this could have been a violation, but not enough to say yea or nay at this point,” Stanke said.
Meanwhile, an Oshkosh law firm representing the city of Menasha denied a more-than month-old Oshkosh Northwestern Freedom of Information request for a copy of the initial Green Bay police conduct review of Gollner, citing an incomplete investigation and concerns over the department’s integrity.
“The report is only preliminary at this point and part of an investigation which has not been completed,” states Menasha City Attorney Allison Zierdt in an Aug. 27 letter on the letterhead of Oshkosh law firm Davis and Kuelthau.
Zierdt lists a 14-point explanation of why the initial Gollner report is exempt from open records. It includes everything from protecting Gollner’s right to privacy to concerns that the report’s release would lead to officers making “fewer arrests if they knew their personnel files might be made public as a result of arrest.”
Citing a 1990 court decision, Zierdt ultimately states “Granting your request for a preliminary report that is part of a continuing investigation could cause unwarranted adverse reputational harm to Police Officer Gollner.”
Stanke said he isn’t certain whether, upon the investigation’s completion, the Green Bay review will be made available to the public.
“I think certainly when it’s completed, I would think that it could be released,” Stanke said. “I’d have to talk to our attorney.”
He said the review needs to turn back to the Green Bay Police Department investigators.
“We received it (the Green Bay initial review), and now there are questions we feel we need answered in additional areas,” Stanke said.
He said Menasha police officials aren’t clear whether Green Bay reviewers have the answers but didn’t include them in the resulting conduct report.
Ultimately, Stanke said if Gollner is “exonerated, she’d want people to know.”
“If not, Joe (Paulus) would want people to know,” he said.
Stanke declined to comment
on the possible penalties Gollner would face if her actions were deemed
in violation, saying it would “be inappropriate for conjecture.”
Alex Hummel: (920) 426-6669