Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

Choices, choices for city attorney

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Waukesha Freeman 01/09/2014, Page A05

Choices, choices for city attorney

Two candidates carry baggage with them

The race for city attorney in Waukesha presents city residents an interesting choice. For the first time in many years, local voters will have a choice in choosing the right person in what many consider a largely administrative position.

The entrance of local attorney Brian Running into the race may have been the nudge that pushed longtime City Attorney Curt Meitz into retirement. Shortly after Running’s announcement Meitz decided to retire.

Now there are three candidates competing for the open position. One is the aforementioned Running. Another candidate is former judge and former Democratic Party of Waukesha Chairman Rick Congdon. The third candidate is Chris Wiesmueller, a defense attorney who previously also did work for the Republican Party in Milwaukee County.

The last shall be first, and we’ll dispense with the last candidate to enter the race.

The Waukesha Freeman reports Wiesmueller considers himself the “true conservative” in the race. OK, fine.

But Wiesmueller was recently reprimanded by the state Office of Lawyer Regulation for assisting a client in deleting files from her computer. His client was Darlene Wink, a former aide to then-County Executive Scott Walker.

The reprimand says Wink was contacted by Wiesmueller, who offered to take her case pro bono. Wiesmueller then told Wink to delete any files that could be used as evidence. When she requested help, he had her bring her laptop computer to his office where he transferred all of the files to a thumb drive.

Later in the investigation, prosecutors ended up serving a warrant on Wiesmueller’s office to get the drive.

It’s safe to say that an attorney that advises his client to destroy potential evidence is not someone Waukesha wants to entrust with the responsibility of being city attorney.

On the Democratic side, city of Waukesha voters have already rejected Congdon once. Congdon was appointed judge by former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle.

Despite Congdon’s best efforts to hide from this salient fact, county voters replaced him with former state Rep. Mark Gundrum. Gundrum crushed Congdon in the city, too, with over 63 percent of the vote.

Since that time, Congdon has confirmed the voters’ assessment of the former Democratic Party leader. According to the Verify the Recall database collected by tea party groups, Congdon signed a petition to recall Walker.

Congdon has been a close associate of Mayor Jeff Scrima, serving as head of the GuitarTown Committee. He also serves on Scrima’s New Day Fund. Both the fund and GuitarTown have caused ethics concerns about the mayor.

Signing the recall petition and joining the mayor on his extracurricular activities does not recommend Congdon’s judgment. It would be hard to imagine any circumstances during the campaign that could cause Waukesha voters to support him.

Which leaves Brian Running, a local attorney with a long and varied practice that has brought him into contact with city government while representing clients.

Running’s challenge to Meitz before he dropped out says that he is someone who is willing to shake things up rather than just go along to get along.

Running is promising to do two things, bring some professionalism to the office and improve communication with the Common Council. Running is also a candidate with experience actually relevant to the job.

But more important to city of Waukesha voters, Running is not going to have the ethical issues his two opponents currently have. Regardless of what happens in the mayoral race, it’s important city voters have an attorney that they trust.