Judge orders restitution, fine in Hobart Village Administrator forgery case

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 12:35 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 16, 2021 at 4:16 PM CDT
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UPDATED with information from the Village of Hobart saying Kramer’s offense will be on the agenda of a future village board meeting.

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - Hobart Village Administrator Aaron Kramer has reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in a case in which he forged a signature in order to replace a municipal judge.

On Thursday, Kramer entered a no contest plea to misdemeanor forgery. The judge found him guilty and ordered him to pay $700 in restitution and a $500 fine. Kramer will not serve time behind bars.

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 Windorff immediately.

The Hobart village clerk told investigators Kramer told her Windorff couldn’t fill in a village 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 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.

Windorff issued a statement at Kramer’s sentencing. She spoke of her wish for Kramer to be removed from his position as village administrator.

The defense pointed a finger at Windorff, saying she exercised bad judgment by representing a village employee. They did also state it was wrong from Kramer to not go through the proper process for removal.

The defense said Kramer intends to keep his job as village administrator and it would be up to the village board to discipline him.

In a news release later Thursday afternoon, the Village of Hobart said the matter will be placed on the agenda of a regularly scheduled board meeting once the required meeting notices are provided. Village leaders will review the misdemeanor complaint filed last month along with other relevant documents, including the “Defendant’s Version of the Offense” filed in court Thursday and the judge’s decision.

Kramer said he was sorry for what had happened and said the investigation and health issues have impacted his family. “I have never had any criminal offenses in my life until this one, and I never will again,” said Kramer.

The judge said the real victim is the public who should be able to trust their government.

Allegations of misconduct in public office were investigated by the Appleton Police Department.

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