First, we were informed by New Berlin Now that numerous New Berlin residents had filed an ethics complaint against Alderwoman Laura Karvala and that the New Berlin Ethics Board scheduled a hearing for Jan. 3.
Next, it was reported that Karvala’s lawyer Michael Maistelman sent the Ethics Board a letter pushing for dismissal of the ethics complaint and hearing . He argued that the complaint did not meet requirements in the city’s codes. Maistelman threatened to take legal action if the Ethics Board did not dismiss the complaint.
Are we to understand that Karvala embraces the law when it’s to her advantage and expects our local government officials to comply with city ordinances she supports, but when she opposed workforce/low income housing at the City Center, she thought it okay to defy the Fair Housing Act?!!! Surely, Karvala, a public official, realized there can be serious consequences to non-compliance with that law, such as embroiling our city in costly legal battles. The developer and the federal government (Justice Department) sued. And we know the end result: the housing units are being built in the City Center.
Karvala is certainly no stranger to controversy. Remember how she tried to rally community residents against Mayor Chiovatero and Ald. Bill Moore? The recall she led against those two elected officials was unsuccessful, but generated publicity for her. No doubt the name recognition she got from her activism helped her win an aldermanic seat with its $10,000 taxpayer- funded annual income. Karvala’s recent actions/aldermanic votes pertaining to traffic on her street riled folks who felt she should have recused herself and communicated more effectively. When they brought an ethics complaint against her, she retained attorney Michael Maistelman to fight it. He contacted the Ethics Board and insisted it drop the complaint.
Maistelman. Does that name ring a bell? Perhaps that’s because of news coverage about a John Doe investigation and a tawdry political scandal involving some of Scott Walkers’ associates. According to prosecutors, Tim Russell, a longtime Republican activist and Walker appointee/top aide, stole money from a fund intended for veterans, wounded soldiers, and families of soldiers killed in action. Accused of spending the stolen money on expensive trips, personal items and to renew Gov. Walker’s gubernatorial websites, Russell was charged with two felonies related to the theft and one misdemeanor count. (Russell also allegedly set up a secret email system in county offices so that staffers could conduct campaign business on their personal laptops while their salaries were being paid by the taxpayers, but has not been charged with that) In his plea deal with prosecutors, Russell agreed to plead guilty to the veterans-related felony and the other charges were dropped. Russell’s initial defense lawyer was Michael Maistelman. Russell has had several defense attorneys, including Maistelman’s law partner Dennis Kreuger.
Recently, it was reported that the New Berlin Ethics Board met last week and dismissed the ethics complaint against Karvala. Per New Berlin Now: “Michael Neuens, chairman of the three-member Ethics Board, announced that the board agrees with Karvala’s attorney that the complaint is insufficient.”
Michael Neuens. Hey, I recognize that name.
Take a trip down memory lane with me:
Neuens was New Berlin’s police chief for a few years back in the 1990’s. He was the city’s police chief when a New Berlin resident and I sought a public record from the police department and were refused. We took this issue to court and won. Obviously, a police department is supposed to uphold and enforce the law, but under Neuen’s leadership, the New Berlin Police Department committed several violations of state law:
The NB police department illegally withheld access to a public record. It failed to inform us of our recourse options when denying us access to the public record. The police department illegally destroyed the requested public record after our lawsuit was filed.
When the police department refused our record request and declared they were putting the record in a personnel file in case we sued them, we retained attorneys who filed a mandamus action to obtain the record. However, after the judge ruled in our favor and ordered the police department to provide the record (an audiotape—we had been secretly recorded when we asked for police assistance), the police department did not give it to us. At first they claimed they couldn’t find the tape, Then when faced with contempt of court fines, admitted to destroying it. A court trial was held to determine punitive damages. Police Chief Neuens testified at the trial. Our attorneys argued that the police department’s conduct was arbitrary and capricious toward us. The judge agreed and issued a scathing verdict against the police department. According to our attorneys, this case/verdict made Wisconsin history.
A police department is supposed to protect and serve. How can it be ethical for a police department to treat citizens unfairly or break the law? But that is what our police department headed by Neuens did.
It is not something one can easily forget, even after a dozen years.
So, it's intriguing to learn that Neuens is now chairman of the city’s Ethics Board. Records indicate he was appointed by the Council President.