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Fond du Lac City Councilman won’t face charges in ethics probe

Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 4:31 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 4, 2021 at 6:09 PM CDT
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FOND DU LAC, Wis. (WBAY) - Fond du Lac City Councilmember, Patrick Mullen, will not be charged after an ethics complaint was filed with the district attorney’s office.

Fond du Lac County du Lac County District Attorney, Eric Toney, says his office was asked to look into Patrick Mullen’s involvement with the Friends of Lakeside Park group, while Mullen was also a candidate for city council. Last year, the group filed a lawsuit against the City of Fond du Lac, because it was opposed to a proposed development project in Lakeside Park. As a director of the group, and also a candidate for city council, there were questions about any potential financial gain, by Mullen, as party to the lawsuit. A similar complaint was filed with the City, where it was determined, no violations occurred. But, according to Eric Toney, the independent investigation conducted by his office uncovered some new details about Mullen’s involvement.

According to Toney, “It was clear from our investigation that the information City Attorney Hoffman was provided was incorrect and it was not to the fault of City Attorney Hoffman as she worked to make sure she had the accurate information.”

Toney says, in the city ethics opinion, which Mullen reviewed and didn’t offer any corrections, his relationship with Mary Hayes, another director of the Friends of Lakeside Park group was listed as “life partner” and not “wife”. The two are in fact married. Their marriage matters with regard to the financial aspect of the lawsuit the Friends of Lakeside Park group filed against the city, and what would have happened had a political action committee not paid for the suit.

“The attorney that represented that group clearly indicated that Ms. Hayes would have been financially liable for attorney’s fee if they had not been paid. With the marriage between Mr. Mullen and Ms. Hayes, that certainly created a liability on behalf of Mr. Mullen and there were more than $36,000 in legal fees that were paid on behalf of that group which was a financial benefit for Mr. Mullen,” says Eric Toney.

But this all comes down to state versus city statutes. Under city rules and regulations, Mullen was considered a public official as soon as he filed his paperwork to run for city council. But, under state law, he’s not a public official until he’s sworn into office and so there was no law under which Mullen could be prosecuted. Toney adds, “If we bore into the legalese for a moment, 19.59(1)(a) and (1)(b) talk about a local public official and Mr. Mullen would not be considered a local public official per those state statutes so those specifically would not legally apply to him, so whether you want to say technicality or not, legally they don’t apply to him.”

The DA says his office’s involvement in this issue is over, but he will be sending the findings of this investigation back to the city attorney who will review it and decide if she needs to take any further action.

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