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Hobart village administrator accused of trying to replace judge by forging signature

A judge's gavel.
A judge's gavel.(AP GraphicsBank)
Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 6:47 PM CDT
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HOBART, Wis. (WBAY) - Hobart Village Administrator Aaron Kramer is accused of being party to forging a document, a misdemeanor, in order to replace a municipal judge.

The criminal complaint obtained by Action 2 News explains that in February, Hobart/Lawrence Municipal Judge Ronald VanLanen asked the 8th Judicial District Court, which oversees courts in northeastern Wisconsin counties, to appoint Judge Carley Windorff to fill in for him while he was on medical leave.

On May 14, Kramer found out Windorff, who’s also a private attorney, was representing a village employee. Kramer told the municipal clerk to remove Judge Windorff immediately.

The Hobart village clerk told investigators Kramer told her Windorff couldn’t be the village’s judge if she was representing a village employee and told her to make an application for a replacement. Prosecutors allege the clerk drafted an application to the judicial district, asking it to assign another judge for Hobart “as soon as possible” and forged Judge VanLanen’s signature. The complaint says the clerk and Kramer “decided not to tell Judge VanLanen about the application.” The application was approved by the district court administrator.

Kramer would tell the investigator he hadn’t seen the application. When the investigator asked who gave the orders to replace Judge Windorff, Kramer answered, “You can say it was a collaborative decision and can’t point the finger at one person who made the ultimate decision.”

But Windorff provided an email from Kramer contradicting that. She said, “I’m concerned about where the decision or request came from,” and Kramer responded, “The decision came from me.”

The court administrator said if he’d known the application was forged and sent without VanLanen’s or Windorff’s knowledge, it would’ve been denied. Village administrators don’t have the authority to replace a judge.

The Hobart village clerk said she didn’t know she could say no to her boss and felt caught in the middle.

The allegations of misconduct in public office were investigated by the Appleton Police Department, being an outside agency.

If convicted, Kramer faces up to 9 months in jail and a $10,000 fine. Online court records show he has a hearing for a plea and sentencing in two weeks in Brown County court.

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