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Across the Region: State costs for John Doe lawsuits top $1.2M


State costs for John Doe lawsuits top $1.2 million

The Wisconsin Department of Administration says taxpayer costs for private lawyers defending state officials from lawsuits stemming from a secret investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign have topped $1.2 million.

The cost is likely to rise because at least one lawsuit is still ongoing. Wisconsin Club for Growth director Eric O’Keefe sued the Government Accountability Board and its director in Waukesha County, costing the state more than $187,000 for private lawyers through August, according to the State Journal.

The state Department of Justice declined to represent the Government Accountability Board because it was already representing the judges involved in the John Doe investigation. Walker’s office then appointed private lawyers to represent the board.

A John Doe investigation focused on whether Walker’s recall campaign illegally coordinated with conservative groups in 2011 and 2012. The investigation led by Francis Schmitz looked into whether the Wisconsin Club for Growth acted as a hub for undisclosed donations.

In July, the investigation was halted by the state Supreme Court, which said the legal theory held by Schmitz violated the free speech rights of those being investigated.

The Department of Administration’s tally of payments to private lawyers includes $1.04 million to three law firms for a federal lawsuit O’Keefe brought against Schmitz and the Milwaukee County district attorney and his investigators. A federal appeals court dismissed the suit last year, and the U.S. Supreme Court opted not to take it up in May.

Lawyers for the Government Accountability Board argue the suit against it should be dismissed because it was made moot by a recent law that ends John Doe investigations into campaign finance and conduct in public office. A judge agreed Monday to hear arguments Dec. 22 before ruling on other motions, said Paul Schwartzenbart, one of the board’s attorneys.


No prison for man who pushed wife out of moving SUV

A Logan, Iowa, man will not go to prison for pushing his wife out of a moving vehicle and leaving her on the side of the road.

The Omaha World-Herald reports that 39-year-old Shane Vanderlinden pleaded guilty to two amended misdemeanor charges of assault causing injury and leaving the scene of a personal injury accident.

He was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder Aug. 12, days after he pushed Ashlee Anderson out of an SUV moving at 30 mph on Interstate 29 and drove off.

Vanderlinden was given to two two-year sentences, to be served at the same time. He was also sentenced to five years in prison for possession of a firearm in a Harrison County case.

The judge suspended all the prison time and placed Vanderlinden on supervised probation for two years.

Firm dismisses suit seeking to shield bids on Iowa contracts

A consulting firm is moving to dismiss a lawsuit that argued that bids for Iowa government contracts could be entirely withheld from the public.

The move by McKinsey & Co. should avoid a trial Monday in which state lawyers were to argue in favor of disclosure.

McKinsey sought an injunction to block the release after a reporter and a competitor sought copies of bids it made for Iowa Board of Regents consulting work. The company argued the bids were confidential trade secrets.

The contracts went to other consultants who are reviewing Iowa’s three public universities. In Friday’s motion, McKinsey says the requesters are no longer seeking the documents and therefore the dispute’s moot.

An assistant attorney general argued Monday the public has a right to know how bids were evaluated.



Burlington resident battles with city over yard decorations

A Burlington resident is battling with city officials over what she says are yard decorations and what the city contends is a public nuisance.

Marie Currier, 40, says wooden pallets painted with Halloween and sports themes are artwork done by her 10-year-old daughter, who began decorating and selling the pallets to raise money to attend summer camp.

The city cited Currier under an ordinance prohibiting the accumulation or storage of “trash, rubbish, junk” and other materials.

The case has been moved from municipal court to state court, where Currier has pleaded not guilty to an infraction that carries a possible punishment of 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine, the Minot Daily News reported.

“They can’t legally tell me how to decorate my yard,” Currier said.

Currier, who plans to hire a lawyer to defend herself, said the city hasn’t told her exactly what she has been cited for, and that the ordinance is difficult to understand. She also claims the city court clerk has refused to let her research nuisance citations filed against other residents.

City Attorney Ashleigh Ensrud said the citation is related to the pallets and the condition of Currier’s yard. City Clerk of Court Lynn Brooks denies refusing Currier access to other nuisance citations.

“She has been instructed by our attorney to put (her request) in writing,” Brooks said. “We have yet to see it.”



Man again gets more than 100 years for killing grandson

A southern Nebraska man has again been sentenced to more than 100 years in prison for killing his 2-year-old grandson.

Fifty-one-year-old Peter Draper was sentenced Monday morning in Adams County District Court. He was given 60 years for intentional child abuse resulting in death and 49-50 years for intentional child abuse resulting in serious injury. Judge Stephen Illingworth ordered that the sentences be served consecutively.

Illingworth meted out the same sentences after Draper’s first trial.

The state Supreme Court in January overturned the Naponee man’s 2013 convictions in the death of Joseph Rinehart Jr. and granted him a new trial. The little boy died April 30, 2012.

Draper had appealed on the grounds that his wife should not have been allowed to be called as a witness for the prosecution.

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