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Updated: Ethics Complaint Filed Against Two Aldermen

Business owner believes two Waukesha aldermen who serve on Waukesha County Board should abstain from voting on joint dispatch.

Editor's Note: This story was updated at 4:32 p.m. Tuesday to include comments from Alderman Duane Paulson.

Waukesha County board supervisors Duane Paulson and Kathleen Cummings are the subject of an ethics complaint filed by a downtown Waukesha business owner because of their votes as Waukesha aldermen as the city looks at the possibility of joining the county’s dispatch system.

The Common Council meets at 7:30 p.m. tonight about the dispatch system after Cummings and Paulson serve both on the Waukesha County Board of Supervisors and on the Waukesha Common Council, which is why Shay Johnson, owner of Leather Restoration, filed the complaint.

 “Both receive a higher payment from the county than the city,” Johnson wrote in the ethics complaint. “Therefore they have a conflicted competing interest in the dispatch being moved. The county will be benefited by this action at a cost of the city.”

Johnson’s asking that the two supervisors abstain from future votes and discussions. The two aldermen have said in past meetings that they represent the same Waukesha citizens while holding the dual elected positions.

Paulson said Tuesday afternoon that he asked the city attorney to write a formal opinion that outlines how county supervisors can also vote as aldermen “in case it was ever a question.” The city attorney has issued the opinion and outlined in state law where it is permissible to hold and to vote while holding the two offices, Paulson said.

“I don’t get anything extra no matter what I do and neither does my family,” Paulson said. “I don’t know that there is a financial incentive other than doing what is best for the taxpayers of Waukesha.”

Paulson does not plan to abstain on the county dispatch issue.

“If there is a vote, I will be voting. If there is discussion, I will enter the debate,” Paulson said.

Cummings’ voicemail box was full and would not accept a voicemail seeking comment. A copy of the ethics complaint is attached to this article.

The council is as it looks for ways to trim money out of its tight budgets. The 2012 budget has reduced officer and firefighter positions, and deferred some major leadership positions in attempt to cut costs.

The Waukesha County Communications Center dispatches for more than two dozen agencies in the area. The analysis done by the reviewed calls at some of those agencies, with the Brookfield Police Department saying it had the most problems with county dispatch.

Joining the county’s dispatch center would save the city on average $14 per household per year during the next 10 years, according to an analysis done by the Waukesha Police Department.

The reaction among aldermen varied from those who wanted to keep open collaboration discussions with the county from those who 100 percent support the city maintaining its own dispatch center.

Alderman Roger Patton, who represents the downtown district, said that he feels dispatch services are better done on a small rather than a large scale.

“I feel we need to support our officers and support our chief’s opinion,” Patton said. “When he changes his mind, I will change mine.”

Alderman Andy Reiland said a ride along with the Waukesha Police Department was “eye-opening” as he learned more about the relationship between the dispatchers and officers.

“They rely heavily on the communication with the dispatch center,” Reiland said. “It is their lifeline.”

Reiland said the message he’s received from his constituents has been to keep the city’s dispatch center. The city needs to ensure dispatch service – if changed – maintains its current level of service or exceed its level of service.

But others want to continue the discussion, including aldermen Kathleen Cummings and Duane Paulson who are the based upon their dual role as county board supervisors.

One of Cummings concerns was leaving the public with no clear answer about when consolidated dispatch could return.

“When is it going to be brought back? There have been a lot of things said and there has been a lot said about me,” Cummings said.

The presence of uniformed officers at an April meeting on joint dispatch at Waukesha North High School caused Paulson to wonder “if this may have been somewhat of an intimidation tactic,” Paulson said.

The discussions about joint dispatch has created strained professional and personal relationships between some city and county employees, Paulson said.

“How long will it take to repair that?” Paulson asked.

Paulson said he didn’t “care for the idea” that he was presented with an ethics complaint because of his elected role, calling it “disheartening” and “an attempt to intimidate.”

Paulson called for the two communities to continue discussions.

“Let’s put our heads together and see if we can’t work this out,” Paulson said.

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