Following an investigation that went on for nearly two years, Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt has reached a plea deal on campaign finance charges filed against him.
On Wednesday, Schmitt was charged with three misdemeanor counts: attempted false statements to an election official, attempted accepting campaign contribution funds not belonging to reported contributor and attempted accepting campaign contribution in excess of limits.
“The charges are representative of violations discovered in the course of the investigation,” said a statement issued by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, which handled the investigation. “A plea agreement has been reached between Mr. Landgraf and Mr. Schmitt’s attorney, Patrick Knight. Mr. Schmitt has indicated an intent to plead guilty to the three criminal charges.”
The charges stem from violations of campaign finance law in reports filed by the 58-year-old Schmitt in 2014 and 2015. Under state law, contributions to individual candidates for local office are limited to a dollar amount equal to one percent of the municipality’s population. In Green Bay, the legal limit for individual contributions is about $1,040. Corporate contributions are also illegal under state law.
“I want all of you to know that I have made mistakes in the handling of campaign finances,” Schmitt wrote in a news release addressed to the Green Bay community Wednesday. “While I may disagree with some of his conclusions, I do not dispute his (Landgraf) factual findings nor his belief that all responsibility for accuracy and compliance rests with me.”
“This is a black eye for Green Bay,” says Alderman Andy Nicholson, one of three city council members who called for an audit of Schmitt’s campaign funds in January 2015. “Having a mayor brought up on charges like this, this is corruption. The mayor also put his personal interest before the public and that is terrible. He should resign because of that.”
Ald. Nicholson, along with Chris Wery and Guy Zima, pointed out about $10,000 worth of illegally or improperly recorded contributions to Schmitt’s re-election campaign. Nicholson expressed frustration with the results of this investigation.
“These are felonies that are dropped down to misdemeanors. They should show what else is out there also, they should show the public every single violation which are basically felonies,” Nicholson said. “He was taking illegal contributions for over a decade. He (Schmitt) knows the law, he believes that he’s above the law.”
- You can read the criminal complaint here
Schmitt’s attorney indicated in a release Wednesday that he expects the court proceedings arising from the complaint to be fully resolved within a month. No court date has been set at this time.
According to the plea deal, prosecutors will not recommend any jail or probation time. Schmitt also agreed to disband his campaign committee. He will then have to create a new campaign committee. In addition, more than $26,000 from Schmitt’s campaign fund has been paid to the state School Fund.