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New Berlin Alderwoman Laura Karvala faces ethics hearing

Voted to divert traffic from her street

Dec. 10, 2012

New Berlin - The New Berlin Ethics Board decided last week that there is probable cause for an ethics hearing to be held on an ethics complaint against New Berlin Alderwoman Laura Karvala alleging that she stands to gain financially by Wilbur Drive being closed or partially closed to traffic.

Karvala lives on Wilbur and the complaint signed by numerous residents alleges that her property values would go up as a result of the closure.

The Ethics Board tentatively set a hearing for 3 p.m. Jan. 3. The Ethics Board reviews complaints of possible ethics violations and makes its recommendations to the Common Council.

Confident she'll be cleared

Karvala said after the meeting that she was surprised the matter will go to a hearing. But she expressed confidence that the charges will be dropped, once all the facts come out.

She said she seriously doubts that the price of her home would go up significantly because of the traffic diverters she voted for. The Common Council vote was 6-1 for the diverters that officials hope will take cut-through traffic heading to National Avenue off Wilbur Drive.

When writing the city's ethics code, the Common Council noted that small conflicts of interest are bound to arise.

So, the code reads in part: "… the standards of ethical conduct for city officials and employees need to distinguish between those minor and inconsequential conflicts that are unavoidable in a free society and those conflicts which are substantial and material."

The complaint against Karvala is signed mostly by residents of Redwood Drive. They will get the shortcut traffic that Wilbur Drive residents have complained about, if the diverters fail to reduce the shortcut traffic. The diverters went up in late November.

Besides charging that Karvala should have recused herself, the ethics complaint alleges that she didn't speak with Redwood Drive residents as she claims.

Signers say they weren't told

Karvala maintained that when she campaigned for office two years ago, she spoke with every person in the subdivision about closing the road and the majority wanted Wilbur closed.

But the signers of the complaint said they hadn't been contacted on the compromise closing. While Karvala favored full closure, the compromise diverted traffic in a roundabout route onto Redwood and other streets and back to Wilbur, maintaining access to National Avenue.

In any case, the Ethics Board didn't deal with that aspect of the complaint. That was because the city's ethics code only deals with financial gain, said Michael Neuens, Ethics Board chairman.

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