January 18, 2009

Wisconsin Lawyer / Oconomowoc Municipal Prosecutor Timothy Kay (a/k/a Tim Kay) and "the Good Old Boys"


Lawyer's two roles questioned

Attorney represents man he has also prosecuted

by Scott Williams

As originally posted on: JSOnline
January 11, 2009



Town of Oconomowoc - Shortly before Christmas, attorney Tim Kay was in Waukesha County Circuit Court fighting what could be his client's third drunken-driving conviction.

One week later, Kay was in municipal court with the same client on an unrelated trespassing case.

Only this time, Kay was the prosecutor.

The overlapping cases have raised concerns about whether Kay has a conflict of interest involving Robert John "R.J." Manders, a prominent business owner who has been in municipal court many times.

Kay has prosecuted Manders on accusations of disorderly conduct, unsafe boating, theft and other charges - many of which have ended in dismissals or plea bargains.

Manders, president of the Okauchee Area Business Association, hired Kay to defend him on the drunken-driving charge and also to represent him in a divorce.

Kay said he believed that any cases in Lake Country Municipal Court were resolved before Manders hired him for the other matters.

The Brookfield-based attorney, who earns $20,000 a year for the municipal court work here, said it is common for part-time prosecutors to have private law practices.

Referring to each community that hires him as a prosecutor, he said, "That municipality is our client for that day."

Kay prosecutes cases for the Town of Oconomowoc and the Village of Oconomowoc Lake.

Case dismissal

Court records show that the town's recent trespassing case against Manders was dismissed Dec. 26, one week after Kay took up Manders' defense in the drunken-driving case.

Municipal Judge Douglas Stern said he was "not pleased" to learn that Kay had an undisclosed outside relationship with the defendant. At the prosecutor's urging, Stern agreed to the dismissal Dec. 26, dropping a charge that Manders had trespassed on a neighbor's pier on Okauchee Lake.

The charge was a noncriminal municipal ordinance violation carrying a potential forfeiture of $235.

If there was any overlap with the drunken-driving case in which Kay is defending Manders, Stern said, it could constitute a conflict of interest for the attorney.

"It doesn't pass the smell test," the judge said, adding that he would have refused to approve the dismissal and would have insisted on a special prosecutor if he had known about Kay's other relationship with the defendant.

Referring to municipal court in general, Stern said, "There has to be absolute propriety in these matters."

Started safe-ride program

Manders, owner of the Auto Connectionz car dealership, is known for helping start the LIMOS safe-ride program to prevent drunken driving in the Oconomowoc area. He was arrested Dec. 13 in Summit and charged with drunken driving, his third such arrest.

The new case is pending in Waukesha County Circuit Court and will be prosecuted by the district attorney's office.

Manders' wife filed for divorce Dec. 10, also in Waukesha County, and Kay registered his first appearance in that case Dec. 29.

Lake Country Municipal Court records show that Kay has prosecuted Manders on several accusations of municipal ordinance violations dating back to 1999.

Before the trespassing case, the most recent incident was a 2007 boating accident in which Manders, 47, was accused of smashing a personal watercraft into another person's boat pier and then leaving the scene of the accident. He paid a $197 forfeiture, after two of three charges were dismissed.

Town chairman

Oconomowoc Town Chairman Robert Hultquist, an attorney, said he was not aware of the many relationships between Kay and Manders.

Hultquist initially said there could be a conflict of interest. But he later said no conflict exists because the municipal court cases all have been resolved. He also offered a vote of confidence to the town's longtime prosecutor.

"From what I know of him, I don't think there's an ethical question for Kay," he said.

Others in town disagree.

Tom Martin, a former Town Board member running for the board again this spring, said he believes Kay is too close to Manders and should not be the prosecutor any longer.

Martin said he also objects that the municipal court prosecutor job is not opened to competitive bidding for other area attorneys.

"Tim Kay has got his hands in too many pies," Martin said. "He's in with the good old boys."

Town Police Chief James Wallis said he thought the trespassing case was going to be shifted to another court to avoid any possible conflict between Kay and Manders.

Wallis said he was unaware of the circumstances surrounding the dismissal.

"There should be no conflict of interest there," he said. "And if there is, then there should be a change of venue."

1 comment:

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