Officials hope audit is last of probes sparked by Voiland

Financial review finds no problems, comes after other investigations prompted by judge find no wrongdoing
By 
BILL SCHANEN IV
Ozaukee Press staff

A financial audit that Ozaukee County court officials hope is the last in a series of investigations prompted by Judge Joseph Voiland has found that the Clerk of Court Office has handled payments for family court services, mediation and custody studies properly, Director of State Courts Randy Koschnick announced last week.

The audit was a follow up to an administrative investigation of the court system that concluded accusations leveled by Voiland against a fellow judge and two other court officials he claimed committed felony misconduct in office while conspiring to subvert his career are false.

“I find that there is no basis to believe that anyone has violated Wis. Stat. 946.12 Misconduct in Public Office. There is also no basis to find that anyone has violated any other criminal statute,” Patrick Fiedler, a former U.S. attorney and longtime Dane County circuit judge who conducted the administrative investigation, wrote in a report released in July.

The administrative investigation ordered  in February by Jennifer Dorow, chief judge of the Third Judicial District, came on the heels of a 16-month criminal probe that began in May 2016 when Voiland contacted the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and alleged that court records had been falsified to undermine him and accused Presiding Judge Paul Malloy, Clerk of Courts Mary Lou Mueller and Circuit Court Commissioner Barry Boline of criminal misconduct.

That investigation was abruptly closed in September 2017 without conclusions or recommendations after Voiland stopped cooperating with agents.

The administrative probe that followed concluded that Malloy and Boline acted properly in cases flagged by Voiland.

Voiland’s accusation focused in large part on changes made to electronic court records in the Wisconsin Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP) case management system and how Mueller, who also serves as the county’s register in probate, classified and handled probate cases.

In response to Voiland’s claims that records had been intentionally falsified and that Mueller abused her power, Fiedler found that Mueller had “reasonable” explanations for some of her actions. In other cases, mistakes, one of which he described as an “innocent error” by a deputy clerk, were made but Mueller “has taken appropriate measures to correct past errors and to ensure that court records are accurate going forward,” Fiedler wrote in his report.

He concluded that there was no attempt by Malloy, Mueller or Boline to “usurp the authority of Judge Voiland.”

Among Voiland’s other concerns was that statutory fees collected by the court system were not being accounted for properly.

  Mueller said she has consulted with Malloy and Ozaukee County Corporation Counsel Rhonda Gorden and all three of them believe the fees collected by the court system are being handled properly.

Fiedler agreed but recommended the Office of State Courts conduct an audit “to have full confidence in the procedure,” he wrote in his report.

What Fielder did find was a stunning lack of communication, and in his report he suggested that two years of investigations prompted by Voiland’s accusations could have been avoided if the officials involved discussed the issues.

“There is a serious communication problem between Judge Voiland and other Ozaukee County court officials,” Fiedler wrote.  “This communication problem has resulted in a lack of trust which has affected the administration of the court system.

“While conducting this investigation and in preparing this report, I often wondered why the people involved did not meet in person to discuss these issues.”

Judge Sandy Williams said in July the communication problem lies with Voiland.

“When I see him I will absolutely try to talk to him. The problem is he’s never around,” Williams said, adding that Voiland no longer participates in monthly meetings at which the county’s judges and typically the district chief judge discuss administrative issues. 

“I see Paul (Malloy) and Barry (Boline) and Mary Lou (Mueller) all the time, but I never see him (Voiland),” she said. 

Had Voiland talked with other court officials, Williams said, the expensive, time-consuming investigations he sparked could have been avoided.

“The way in which (Voiland) went about getting simple questions answered was just so unproductive,” she said. “How much of the taxpayers’ money was spent because he didn’t know how to talk to people?”

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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