Former PWFD employee sentenced to 25 days

Ex-administrative assistant convicted of felony misconduct in office maintains she didn’t intentionally pad her pay
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

Lisa Theis, a former Port Washington Fire Department EMT and administrative assistant who was found guilty of felony misconduct in office and misdemeanor theft, was sentenced last week to two years probation and 25 days in jail by Circuit Judge Sandy Williams.

Williams also ordered Theis to pay $1,353.60 in restitution, to have no contact with the fire department or its members unless it’s for an emergency and to cover court costs of $921.

“I don’t think anyone views you as a career criminal,” Williams said. “But what you engaged in were criminal acts. For over a year, you were engaged in criminal acts. You got caught.”

Theis was convicted of intentionally misrepresenting the hours she worked in the fire department so that she was paid $1,353 over the course of a year beginning in September 2019.

Prosecutors argued that Theis, who was  responsible for entering call log data into the payroll system, deliberately inflated the number of hours she worked, reporting hours for calls she didn’t work or that never happened.

But Theis testified during the trial that she did not intentionally falsify department records but, with two sons about to leave home, was trying to calculate her withholding using different scenarios so she would not owe any taxes and inadvertently reported she had worked more than she did.

Theis fought tears Thursday as she told Williams that she made a mistake that has cost her a job she enjoyed, adding it has affected her family and her health.

“I’m not saying I did nothing wrong. I just said I did not do it on purpose,” she said. “I said from the beginning that if I was paid something I was not owed, I would repay that right away.

“I’m honest. I have apologized for this so many times. I’m sorry this happened.”

She could have accepted a plea deal, Theis said, but was reluctant to because it would have meant acknowledging her guilt.

“I didn’t want to lie and say I did that on purpose,” she said.

And, she said, there were numerous times she worked at the Fire Department and didn’t seek pay, so if she wanted to make more money she could have just claimed that time.

Assistant District Attorney Benjamin Lindsay had asked that Theis be placed on probation for three years and serve nine months in jail, citing her deliberate acts and consistent manipulation of the system.

“This is an incredible violation of the public trust,” he said. “She repeatedly took advantage of that trust.”

And, he said, Theis consistently painted herself as the victim.

But Theis’ attorney, Jeffrey Jensen, recommended that Williams only fine Theis $500 and require restitution.

“The idea of placing Ms. Theis in jail for nine months is not called for,” he said.

While Theis still contends her actions were an honest mistake, not a criminal act, Jensen said, “she is willing to accept the jury’s verdict.”

Theis, he added, has “suffered significant non-judicial consequences” for her actions. She’s humiliated, her actions have been made public and her family and friends are aware of them, she lost her job at the Fire Department and her conviction places her current job in jeopardy.

“I don’t think Lisa Theis will walk away thinking it’s all right to violate the law,” he said. “There is no amount of incarceration needed to punish Ms. Theis.”

Williams said she is troubled that Theis continues to blame others and doesn’t seem to fully take responsibility for her actions.

The prosecution’s case made sense, she said, while Theis’ explanation of what happened did not.

“I don’t think the jury could have reached any other verdict,” Williams said. “You want me to believe you’re a victim of our own actions. I can’t buy into that.”

While people know about what happened and Theis feels humiliated, “that’s a consequence of your actions,” Williams told her.

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