Special Prosecutor Assigned in Treasure’s Office Investigation
By Brandi Makuski
The DA’s request for a special prosecutor in the investigation of the Portage Co. Treasurer’s Office has been filled.
Portage Co. District Attorney Louie Molepske sent out the request earlier this month, citing a potential conflict of interest for his office regarding an investigation into allegations of financial misconduct in the treasurer’s office. Molepske said many who work in his office personally know employees throughout the courthouse building and did not want to risk a possible conflict.
Assistant Attorney General David Maas, from the Wis. Department of Justice, is now overseeing the investigation, Molepske confirmed late Friday.
“He will determine whether to bring criminal charges,” Molepske said.
Following an internal investigation, Portage Co. Corporation Counsel Mike McKenna said allegations against the office of the county’s treasurer, Stephanie Stokes, had been referred to the Stevens Point Police Dept. for further review.
Interim Assistant Chief Tony Babl said the department would not comment on the case, but said it was referred to Stevens Point police on September 9, 2015. The investigation was completed, and then forwarded to the DA’s office, on Oct. 2.
No request for charges were made following the police investigation, but detectives did request further legal scrutiny of the office to determine if any of the allegations had risen to the level of criminality.
When asked what the specific allegations were, Molepske would only say they were “financial” in nature, also saying there were “numbers that didn’t add up”.
Multiple county officials have declined to comment on what exactly sparked the investigation, though McKenna referred City Times staff to a routine 2013 audit of the treasurer’s office, conducted by the third-party accounting firm Baker Tilly. That report indicated several deficiencies in the operation of Stokes’ office.
Officials from the Portage Co. Finance Committee confirmed Stokes, who was first elected to the office in 2004, has provided follow-up reports indicating what steps she had taken to improve the deficiencies, but those reports were verbal and the details were not included in the committee’s meeting minutes.
Maas was not immediately available for comment. Check back for updates.