Complaint filed against Richfield trustee
Alleges Neu has conflict of interest with Fire Department
By SARAH MANN Daily News
Reid Snedaker says he has lodged a formal complaint with Washington County District Attorney Mark Bensen’s office Wednesday alleging the Richfield Trustee Dan Neu has violated Wisconsin law because he has a conflict of interest between the Village Board and the Richfield Fire Department.
Richfield officials said they had not heard of the complaint Thursday afternoon.
In his complaint, Snedaker requests that Bensen “take immediate enforcement action” against Neu, including requiring that Neu resign from the Village Board, that Bensen impose the maximum fines allowed for violating the law and open a criminal investigation to determine how much taxpayer money Neu receives as a result of his votes on the Village Board.
Snedaker did not return several calls for comment Thursday evening, but his complaint centers around Neu’s paid position as president of the Richfield Fire Department, which he has held since 2010. Because funding for the Fire Department is included in the village’s annual budget, and Neu votes to approve the overall village budget as part of his duties as a trustee, Snedaker says Neu has a conflict of interest.
“By consistently voting to adopt the Richfield 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 annual budgets, Mr. Neu, as a village trustee, has both used his public position and took official action to allocate a total of ($1.7 million) in Village of Richfield taxpayer funds to the Richfield Volunteer Fire Company,” Snedaker alleges. The figure comes from adding the allocations to the Fire Department, amounts in the $435,000$453,000 range, from all four budgets.
Snedaker cited several Wisconsin statutes in his complaints, including Sec. 19.59(1)(a) stating that “No local public official may use his or her public position or office to obtain financial gain or anything of substantial value for the private benefit of himself” and that public officials may not “Take any official action substantially affecting a matter in which the official ... or an organization with which the official is associated has a substantial financial interest.”
Neu said he could understand there might be a conflict of interest if he were voting on the Fire Department’s contract with the Village Board, but “When it comes time to vote on the contract, I’ve always recused myself,” he said. “As far as I’ve always been advised (by village administrators), there hasn’t been an issue with voting on the budget.”
Neu said he makes $2,500 per year for his position as president of the Fire Department. That does not include money made from responding to emergency calls; responders are paid $12.50 per response, he said.
As president, it is Neu’s job to prepare budget documents for the Fire Department.
“When it comes time for budgeting, I have an 11-man board. They’re the ones that come with their wish-list, and then we have to vote,” Neu said. “There’s 11 people that vote on that budget. ... Then the village can go over it and see if it’s OK or not.”
While they were creating the 2014 budget, village trustees had to debate the amount of funds to be allocated to the Fire Department at a board meeting on Nov. 21. Neu recused himself while the remaining trustees denied a $4,000 addition the Fire Department had requested in its budget. Neu re-entered the room after their decision was made and voted with the other trustees to approve the entirety of Richfield’s $2.4 million dollar budget.
Neu is running for re-election April 1 alongside incumbent Bill Collins. They are challenged by Gil Frank and former County Board supervisor Bill Meyers. Reid Snedaker ran for village board president in the 2013 spring elections as a write-in candidate and lost to incumbent John Jeffords.