|Former Chancellor Richard Wells and former Vice Chancellor Thomas Sonnleitner are due back in court Aug. 29.|
By Miles Maguire
At the request of a state prosecutor who says a “global resolution” is in the works, the trial of two former UW Oshkosh officials for misconduct in office has been delayed once again.
“The parties are making substantial progress in resolving the case,” said Randall Schneider, an assistant attorney general.
The case was filed in April 2018 against former Chancellor Richard Wells and former Vice Chancellor Thomas Sonnleitner. It alleges that the two exceeded their legal authority to facilitate real estate transactions involving the UW Oshkosh Foundation. Neither profited personally from the deals.
Both Wells and Sonnleitner, who pleaded not guilty, were due in court June 20 but now are not expected back until Aug. 29. This is the second postponement of scheduled hearings in the case.
Wells and Sonnleitner also stand accused of misconduct in a civil case that was filed in Dane County in January 2017. That case was put on hold so that a rash of claims could be resolved between the foundation and the UW System.
Now that the foundation and the UW System have resolved their differences, it’s not clear how much of a case the state still has against the two former university officials.
While the state agreed to a settlement that involved an outlay of cash, it also received significant real estate assets in return. The system’s Board of Regents said it was “pleased” with the outcome.
“We will need an additional 60 days to address the civil claims,” Schneider wrote to the judge. “By addressing the civil claims, we intend to reach an agreement to resolve the restitution claim in the criminal case.”
The criminal charges carry stiff fines and potential jail terms, but the complaints served against Wells and Sonnleitner do not mention restitution. Schneider did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.
“The defense has requested a global resolution of all civil and criminal claims,” Schneider told the judge.
An attorney for Wells, Raymond Dall’Osto, was tight-lipped about the situation. “Discussions about possible settlement of the criminal and civil cases have been and continue to be ongoing,” he wrote in an email message. “That’s all I can say at this time.”
Although the next court date for his client is described in the court file as a "plea hearing," Dall'Osto referred to it as "further proceedings."