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Green Bay Mayor Charged With Violating Wisconsin Election Law

Prosecutor: Mayor Jim Schmitt To Plead Guilty To Three Misdemeanor Charges As Part Of Plea Agreement

Stack of cash
Daniel Scally (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Green Bay’s mayor has agreed to plead guilty to three misdemeanor charges of violating state election law.

Brown County court records show Mayor Jim Schmitt is facing criminal charges filed Wednesday, including attempted election fraud.

Schmitt issued a statement Wednesday in which he acknowledges mistakes in how his campaign finances were handled. Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf has been reviewing the mayor’s campaign account transactions for a year and a half, Schmitt’s attorney, Patrick Knight, wrote in a statement also issued Wednesday.

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The charges are the result of a plea agreement in which the mayor intends to plead guilty to the three counts, according to the DA’s office.

Schmitt is accused of accepting contributions over acceptable limits and wrongfully attributing some to relatives. The mayor is also accused of failing to accurately record and verify financial campaign data.

In the written statement addressed to the Green Bay community, Schmitt said he “fully cooperated with this review by voluntarily producing all relevant records for examination,” pertaining to his campaign account, Friends of Jim Schmitt.

“I want all of you to know that I have made mistakes in the handling of campaign finances,” Schmitt’s statement reads.

In Schmitt’s statement, he said Landgraf’s review of the campaign records showed no donated funds were “diverted or used for any inappropriate purpose,” and no campaign volunteers are responsible for the inaccuracies.

“While I may disagree with some of (Landgraf’s) conclusions, I do not dispute his factual findings nor his belief that all responsibility for accuracy and compliance rests with me,” Schmitt wrote. “… I should have done much better and for that I offer my heartfelt apologies to you and to everyone in the city.”

Court proceedings have not yet been schedule, but Knight expects the matter to be resolved within a month.

Schmitt has served as mayor since 2003 and will continue to do so, according to Knight’s statement.

Green Bay Aldermen Chris Wery, who asked for the investigation into Schmitt’s campaign finances in late 2014, said the investigation didn’t go far enough by looking into alleged illegal corporate donations.

“If you’re going to do a full investigation, why not address everything and put charges out for everything, not just ignore it?” Wery questioned. “And secondly, these are all felonies according to state statutes. They’re all felonies and yet they were all reduced to misdemeanors.”

The Green Bay City Council may also weigh in on Schmitt’s case, which could result in anything from “nothing to removal from office,” Wery said.

The criminal complaint was filed Wednesday, and Landgraf will be the special prosecutor on the case, according to online court records.