Sunday, September 29, 2019

UW Oshkosh defends its handling of sexual assault case

An unnamed male student has filed a federal lawsuit challenging university process.

By Miles Maguire
The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is defending the way it handles sexual assault cases, arguing that a recent campus investigation passes constitutional muster.

The case involves two students who attended a social event at a bar outside the city on March 16. Afterwards the two returned to the female’s sorority and had sex in her bedroom, according to court papers.

The male student, who stands accused of subjecting the woman to nonconsensual sex, is arguing in a federal lawsuit that the university is violating his constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.

He complained about five specific aspects of the university’s approach: 

  • Its refusal to subpoena witnesses;
  • Its use of a hearing examiner who has the same supervisor as the university’s investigator;
  • One-sided communications with the woman who has brought the complaint;
  • A cross-examination process that limits direct questioning; and
  • The standard of proof the university wants to use.
“None of these things violate the 14th Amendment,” lawyers for the university said in a Sept. 25 filing. A key reason is that the male student is undergoing an administrative review of possible misconduct, which has standards different from those for a criminal case. Criminal charges have not been brought.

Doe’s lawyer had asked the court to block a hearing that was scheduled for last Thursday. But U.S. District Judge Pamela Peppers ruled that a temporary stay was not necessary and then did not rule last week on a separate request for a preliminary injunction.

The male has brought the case as John Doe and asked that he not be forced to reveal his identity. The woman’s name has not been disclosed.

The university argues that Doe should wait to see the aftermath of the hearing. “Doe’s remedy, at this point, is to move forward with the university’s due process hearing, and, if unsatisfied with the outcome, utilize the university’s and the state’s appeal procedures,” lawyers for UW Oshkosh said.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Oshkosh agrees to partial payment to arena owner

The new Wisconsin Herd season begins Nov. 8.

By Miles Maguire
In a gesture of support for the upcoming Wisconsin Herd season, the city has agreed to release almost $400,000 in tax incentive payments to the owner of the Menominee Nation Arena.

“We believe this settlement is necessary for the continued operation” of the arena, said City Manager Mark Rohloff. “The city of Oshkosh recognizes the positive impact the Wisconsin Herd and other events held at the Menominee Nation Arena have on the Oshkosh community, and we believe this settlement will allow us to continue our plans for the Sawdust District.”

Rohloff emphasized that this move is only a “partial settlement” of the dispute between the city and Fox Valley Pro Basketball Inc., the owner and developer of the arena. The city has agreed to return $5.5 million over time to the developer from property taxes collected on the site.

If all had gone according to plan, the city had been prepared to make its first payment, $429,891, to the arena owner as of Nov. 1. But Fox Valley filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Aug. 19, and its plans for moving forward drew objections from its major creditor and from the city.

Those plans were heavily dependent on the cash infusion from the city under the terms of the tax incentive plan for the project, and the city expressed concerns that the money might be better used in other ways.

Under the agreement announced Friday, the city will proceed with a payment to the property owner after deducting outstanding bills for police and fire services and for legal costs incurred in relation to the bankruptcy. Fox Valley has agreed to then pay roughly $8,000 in outstanding utility bills back to the city.

The net proceeds to the developer will be about $385,000.

“We recognize that it’s in the city’s interest for the development to be successful,” Rohloff said. “Their success is dependent on the upcoming Herd season.”

The Herd season begins Nov. 8 with a home game against the Windy City Bulls.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Foundation emerges intact from years of bankruptcy, financial turmoil

Photo by Miles Maguire
The UW Oshkosh Foundation operates from the newly renamed Culver Family Welcome Center.
By Miles Maguire
Three years after a flawed investigative report that threw its financial condition into question, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Foundation has emerged intact from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, with close to $20 million in assets and the financial capacity to fund hundreds of thousands of dollars in student scholarships

In an order dated Sept. 17, Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge for the Eastern District of Wisconsin G. Michael Halfenger officially closed the case, saying that the foundation’s “plan has been substantially consummated.”

“It’s been a long three years, but finally the outcome is favorable,” said Tim Mulloy, a retired insurance executive and UW Oshkosh alumnus who serves as chair of the foundation. “We come out of this with no debt and a clean balance sheet with about $28 million in assets,” he said. “In the last few months, we’ve had almost $3 million come in.”

Although the foundation was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy for only two years, Mulloy dates the organization’s problems to Aug. 10, 2016. That’s when Michael M. Grebe, chair of the UW System Regents Audit Committee, and Andrew J. Leavitt, chancellor of UW Oshkosh, received an investigative report they had commissioned from retired Judge Patrick J. Fiedler.

Fiedler’s report, which later became the basis for legal actions against two former UW Oshkosh administrators, contained a glaring error. “The starting point for this investigation is Article VIII, Section 3, of the Wisconsin Constitution,” Fiedler wrote, which “prohibits UW Oshkosh from guaranteeing any debts incurred by the UW Oshkosh Foundation.”

Fiedler was wrong on this point, as two judges, one in Dane County Circuit Court and the other in the federal bankruptcy system, later ruled. But the idea that the university-foundation transactions were illegal from the start, rather than just ill-advised or untimely, became central to a narrative that was pushed by the University of Wisconsin System and later repeated by news organizations across the state.

Fiedler declined to comment for this article.

The foundation has deep roots in the Oshkosh community, and its board has included some of the university’s strongest supporters, including Craig Culver, the co-founder of the Culver’s restaurant chain; Robert Keller, chairman of J.J. Keller & Associates; Dave Omachinski, former chairman of Anchor BanCorp Wisconsin; and Beth Wyman, a local entrepreneur and education activist who owns The Waters together with her husband, Bill, the former Oshkosh B’gosh executive who now heads the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation.

The group’s board said that it was forced to seek bankruptcy protection in August 2017 because of “a policy flip flop and ill-advised political gamesmanship” by the UW System Board of Regents.

At the time the foundation was struggling with several underperforming real estate estate investments that had required infusions of cash from the university. The foundation thought that it had a deal with the UW System to work its way out of its dilemma, but this agreement fell apart under pressure from legislative leaders, the foundation said.

After two adverse legal rulings, the UW System asked to meet with foundation officials late last year to work out a compromise solution. Earlier estimates that taxpayers could be on the hook for $15 million proved inaccurate as the UW System announced that it would pay less than half that amount to settle the matter. Even this cash payout was offset by the acquisition of a biodigester and a conference center worth millions of dollars.

“No donor dollars were used during this,” Mulloy said. “We continued to honor and pay all scholarships that were presented.” The foundation has just finished approving its latest round of disbursements, worth about $700,000, he said.

The foundation board is now turning its attention to a planned merger with a second university charitable arm, the Titan Alumni Foundation, which was launched about a year ago. “We are in concurrence on most things at a high level,” Mulloy said.

Some operating issues and the composition of the board for the merged organization are still to be worked out, he said.

The end of the bankruptcy case “is another important step in the renewal of our partnership,” said Oshkosh Chancellor Leavitt.

“We are grateful for the dedicated alumni, staff and volunteers of the UW Oshkosh Foundation and the Titan Alumni Foundation who continue to work closely together to chart the way forward and strengthen UWO," Leavitt said.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Winnebago County supervisors back switch to medical examiner but details still need to be worked out

Screenshot from Oshkosh Media.
Supervisor Bill Wingren, of Oshkosh, heads the committee that will develop options for the coroner function.
By Miles Maguire
The Winnebago County Board of Supervisors has voted to abolish the coroner’s position and move to a medical examiner system, but there are still many details to be worked out.


At its Sept. 17 meeting, the supervisors voted 33-1 to make the change. The only negative vote was from Susan Locke, of Menasha, who was also one of the handful of supervisors who did not endorse the board’s Aug. 20 vote of no confidence in current Coroner Barry L. Busby.


The vote “is the first step in a process,” said Bill Wingren, of Oshkosh, who chairs the county’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. The medical examiner approach will mean “a new way of delivering services to our citizens ... that is efficient and effective and professional.”


This is not the first time that a proposal has been made to do away with an elected coroner, who does not have to have specific training, and instead hire a medical examiner with minimum qualifications. 


But reports about Busby’s conduct in office, which led him to hand in his resignation effective Oct. 31, convinced supervisors that a new approach is necessary.  “It’s time to take advantage of this opportunity,” Wingren said. “It’s a time to reform and a time to transform.”


“I believe everybody has been following the news the last few months,” said Supervisor Joel Rasmussen, whose district lies on the south shore of Lake Butte des Morts. “This doesn’t need a lot of discussion. It’s a no-brainer.”


Starting in June reports in the Oshkosh Examiner and Oshkosh Herald described the concerns of top county officials about Busby’s erratic work performance. The articles included information about Busby’s absence from the state, his removal from office of a longtime deputy and allegations of multiple cases of sexual harassment.


The new system will be implemented no later than 2023, after the current term of office ends for the coroner. It is up to Gov. Tony Evers to appoint Busby’s replacement, and that person could agree to adopt the medical examiner approach sooner. 


In the meantime, the judiciary committee will examine at least six different ways to handle the duties of a coroner, which are primarily to investigate suspicious deaths. Under different scenarios, the person in the position might be required to have a medical degree or training as a pathologist, said Supervisor Paul Eisen, of Menasha.


In the past, objections have been raised about the higher costs of having higher credentials. But other counties have found that they could control costs by working with neighboring jurisdictions to share expenses. “Our neighbor to the south, Fond du Lac, employs a pathologist as a medical examiner,” Eisen said. “If we were to join up with them, we could get that expertise” without taking on its full cost.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

UW Oshkosh student says his rights have been violated in sexual assault investigation, pushes federal lawsuit

The lawsuit stems from a sexual encounter after an off campus social event in March.
By Miles Maguire
Fallout from a sexual encounter between two UW Oshkosh students has landed in federal court, with the male plaintiff arguing that the school has “flagrantly violated” his constitutional rights in pursuing the matter.

The case stems from a party sponsored on March 16 by a campus sorority at Winkler’s Westward Ho on County Road S, according to court papers. One of the sorority sisters invited a member of a campus fraternity to attend as her guest, and the two of them took part in the event along “with many other male and female students of the university,” the court filing says.

At the end of the evening, the partygoers returned to town by bus. Eventually the two Oshkosh students wound up in the female’s bedroom, where they engaged in sex, according to the lawsuit.

On May 13 the female student contacted the university’s Interim Dean of Students, Joann “Buzz” Bares, and reported that “the sexual interactions on the evening of March 16, 2019, were not consensual,” court papers state. That same day Bares wrote to the male student to notify him that an investigation had been started.

The male student has filed the case as John Doe and asked that he be allowed to remain anonymous. His first name is revealed in multiple places in the lawsuit, however, and a last name is also included in a part of a hearing transcript that is quoted from, although it isn’t clear whether that is the plaintiff’s last name.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Oshkosh arena owner sitting on $9 million hole

The arena grossed $3.1 million in 2018, according to new legal documents.

By Miles Maguire


The Menominee Nation Arena is sitting on a $9 million hole, the difference between its assets and its liabilities, according to legal papers filed Monday. 


Also Monday the company that owns the Wisconsin Herd said that it has not received a single payment from the arena and is now owed $560,510.

In a 
77-page filing, Fox Valley Pro Basketball Inc., the developer and owner of the facility, said its assets come to $16.3 million while its liabilities are $25.5 million.

The new filing, required as part of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process, provides the most detailed accounting to date of the financial condition of Fox Valley. Here are some highlights:

  • The company says the arena is worth just $10.3 million based on a recent appraisal. The cost of construction was more than twice that amount, $21.5 million. 

  • Fox Valley is apparently thinking about pursuing legal action against local investor Eric Hoopman for disclosure of confidential information and lists this “cause of action” as an asset. In a suit filed last week accusing Fox Valley of misrepresentation and securities fraud, Hoopman included information about Fox Valley’s hopes to build a casino and about financial projections that were shared with investors.

  • Fox Valley says its largest secured creditor is Bayland Buildings Inc. with a recognized claim of $12.7 million.

  • Three governmental entities, including the IRS and two state agencies, have unsecured claims of $127,559.

  • The number of unsecured claims by private entities is now at 152, with a total value of $11.4 million.

  • The arena grossed $3.1 million in 2018, up from $284,000 in 2017.

Future Bucks LLC, the entity that owns the Herd, filed an objection to some of the terms of the proposed interim financing for the arena.

In its filing Future Bucks disclosed the terms of its agreement with the arena, including 100% of gross ticket revenues, 20% of gross concessions and 50% of net parking revenues. Future Bucks was also due 20% to 30% of revenues from advertising displayed at the arena.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Oshkosh arena developer is accused of securities fraud in civil lawsuit that reveals plans for casino, hotel

A new lawsuit reveals plans to build a casino in conjunction with the Menominee Nation Arena.


By Miles Maguire

A local businessman has accused the developer of the Menominee Nation Arena of securities fraud and misrepresentation, while also revealing some of the inner details of the project, including a long-term plan to build a hotel and casino on the south side of Oshkosh.


Eric Hoopman, who owns Black Teak Properties and started a technology company called DealerFire, filed this latest action Sept. 11. It names Greg Pierce, the president of Fox Valley Pro Basketball Inc., which is referred to as FVPB in the lawsuit.

Last month Hoopman sued Fox Valley, demanding the repayment of a $1 million loan and helping to set off a chain reaction that led the company to file for bankruptcy protection. Hoopman has now shifted his attention to Pierce personally as well as several of his employees, including Deb Allison-Aasby. 

Allison-Aasby is a member of the Oshkosh Common Council who served as senior vice president of the arena for a year and also worked as a financial adviser at another company owned by Pierce, Windward Wealth Strategies Inc. Her emails included in the court file show her trying to coax Hoopman into becoming a permanent investor in the arena. She is referenced in the lawsuit but is not named as a defendant.

Pierce “made material misrepresentations about [Fox Valley’s] gross income and projected profits, indicating that FVPB was projected to have over $3.5 million in gross income in 2018,” the lawsuit says. “Upon information and belief, such representations were false as FVPB did not have this level of gross income in 2018.”

The suit also names Walter Koskinen, chief compliance officer at Windward. “Koskinen made representations that they were in the process of receiving a loan guarantee from the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks organization and/or the NBA G League president.” The G League is the NBA’s minor league, and its president at the time was Malcolm Turner, now athletics director at Vanderbilt University. 

“Pierce and Koskinen knew, or should have known, that their material misrepresentations were untrue,” the lawsuit states. 

The suit includes one count of securities fraud and four counts of misrepresentation.

One of the exhibits in the file is an Aug. 18, 2018, email from Pierce to Hoopman’s lawyer. The subject line is “Project Update - Team Equity - Hotel/Casino Phase 2.” 

“We are finalizing a plan to explore development opportunities with Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin for a hotel/casino and entertainment district,” Pierce wrote. “With our partnership with the Menominee Nation we think we can develop a hotel and casino property that will be highly valuable to our shareholders.” 

The idea of building a casino near the arena has been widely rumored, but this is the clearest indication to date of how far along those plans were.

Douglas Cox, chairman of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, was not immediately available for comment.

City Manager Mark Rohloff said he had heard the rumors about a casino plan but no formal proposal ever came forward. He also noted that casino approvals are a "long process" that involve multiple levels of review, including by the federal government.

The city has been working on creating an entertainment district in the area of the arena. But those plans have not been completed, Rohloff said.

Another exhibit in the lawsuit is a promotional flyer for "invitation only" meetings of investors in September 2017. At that time Pierce was planning to increase the price of shares by 15 percent based on new financial projections.

At the time, he expected gross income to jump threefold, from $836,000 that year to $3.6 million in 2018. He also projected payment of a 10 percent dividend and "no long-term debt." 

The emails between Hoopman and Allison-Aasby date to March 2018, a few months after Hoopman had extended the $1 million loan while Pierce and his associates worked to come up with permanent financing. 

Hoopman’s message indicates that he was under the impression that the long-term funding issue was close to being resolved. “If you guys need to pay off the loan early, I totally understand, and Greg mentioned that might be the case when we initially discussed the deal.” 

Allison-Aasby wrote back, saying that the plan was to get a long-term loan and then refinance loans like Hoopman’s, which carried an 18% interest rate. 

“I was hoping we could talk about the day to day operations and the successes we are having,” she wrote. “Ultimately, Eric, I want to discuss the possibility of making your investment in the arena permanent.”

Allison-Aasby denied that there was any conflict of interest between her job working for the arena and her role as a member of the Common Council.

"I would say if there were anything between Fox Valley Pro and the city, I had nothing to do with it," she said. "Nor did I ever vote [on any matter before the council] regarding Fox Valley." She stressed that she was an employee of the arena and was carrying out assignments as directed by "ownership." 

Other individuals named in this story were not immediately available for comment.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Builder throws another wrench into financial reorganization plans for Oshkosh arena

The Menominee Nation Arena is best known as the home of the Wisconsin Herd.
By Miles Maguire
The company that built the Menominee Nation Arena is arguing that it is the rightful owner of promised public subsidy payments, throwing another wrench into the financial reorganization plans of the facility’s owner.

In a Sept. 6 bankruptcy court filing, Bayland Buildings Inc. says that arena developer Fox Valley Pro Basketball Inc. signed over its interest in the city’s tax increment financing (TIF) payments. The money was promised as partial collateral for the $13 million mortgage loan that Bayland extended when Fox Valley was unable to pay its construction bill in 2018.

Bayland helped to push the arena developer into bankruptcy court last month by asking that a receiver be appointed to run the facility, best known as the home of the Wisconsin Herd minor league basketball team.

Fox Valley has asked for court permission to work out its debts, saying that it would use the city’s TIF payment and other revenues to pay operating costs in the meantime.

Last week the city filed a motion to hang on to the first $430,000 TIF payment, which is due Nov. 1. According to City Manager Mark Rohloff the money should go to whatever entity ends up running the arena, not necessarily the current owner.

If Oshkosh is told to make the payment so that the arena can continue operating, the city wants Fox Valley to put up a bond to cover the amount so that the money will be used to keep the facility running on a permanent basis and not just to satisfy overdue bills.

Rohloff did not seem too concerned about Bayland asserting its claim over the TIF money. “It demonstrates the need for the court to act on our motion,” he said.

Bayland’s filing extends beyond the TIF money to other contracts that Fox Valley entered into before it petitioned for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Chapter 11 is a legal process that is intended to give a company breathing room with creditors while it works out a way to pay off its debts.

The building contractor says that money the arena earns from new deals should belong to the arena. But Bayland says it has the right to money that comes in under contracts that were signed before the bankruptcy filing, which could include rental income and advertising sponsorships as well as the TIF.

“Bayland does not consent to the debtor’s continued use of the proceeds of the prepetition contracts, which constitute Bayland’s cash collateral, absent assurance of adequate protection,” the company said in a legal filing. “Debtor’s use of the proceeds of the prepetition contracts will immediately and irreparably harm Bayland’s interest in its collateral.”

In other legal action, Greg Pierce, the owner of Fox Valley, has denied claims made by Bayland about his financial stewardship of the arena. He also called for Bayland’s foreclosure suit to be dismissed.

Similarly Pierce has filed a response to a lawsuit from his former attorney over nonpayment of bills asking that it be dismissed. He said he and his former lawyer modified their legal services agreement “such that plaintiff’s claim for payment is barred in whole or part.”

Efforts to obtain comment from Bayland and from Fox Valley’s current and former lawyers were not immediately successful.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Around the Winnebago courthouse: 10 years in wild radar stop, daily heroin runs to Milwaukee


By Miles Maguire
A routine traffic stop that turned into a potentially deadly encounter between two Oshkosh police officers and a driver who tried to use her car as a lethal weapon has led to a 10-year sentence for a former Boyd Street resident.

Caitlyn Nicole Heinz, 28, pleaded guilty in February to two counts of recklessly endangering safety, eluding an officer and causing a hit-and-run injury. Her sentence was finalized Sept. 5 with a modification to one of the overlapping terms she had received.

The April 2018 incident began when an Oshkosh police officer working radar clocked a car going 42 in a 30 mph zone near South Main Street and West 16th Avenue, according to the criminal complaint.

After executing a traffic stop, the officer was unable to identify the driver, who “appeared to be giving false information,” and he asked for backup. A second policeman arrived, who questioned Heinz further before the two officers decided that they would need to remove her from the vehicle.

As one officer tried to unlock the car’s door, the driver became “verbally combative” and grabbed for the transmission gear lever and “placed it all the way into drive,” police said.

The officers reached into the car, and Heinz “then accelerated quickly at a high rate of speed” with both policemen still inside.

One officer was able to disentangle himself within 15 feet and landed on the ground. But the other officer said he “ended up with my back against the steering wheel” using one hand to try to control the gear shift and “the other attempting to combat the female driver.”

At this point Heinz “latched onto my middle right finger with her mouth as I was yelling at her to stop, and she continued to bite even harder, moving her head back and forth as if she was trying to bite off the top of my middle right finger,” the officer said.

The driver put the car into reverse and drove it towards the other officer. The first officer was still in the car, with his back to the front windshield, which he struck and broke with his head as the car lurched around in a circle, according to court papers.

The second officer was able to dodge the car the first time, but as it circled around a second time he was struck by the driver’s side door, which was still open. Heinz continued to reverse until she hit a house on the east side of Doty Street, police said

“At that point things seemed to be slightly fuzzy,” the first officer said. The second officer then drew his firearm but realized he could not shoot at Heinz with his fellow officer still in the car. He ran up to Heinz’s vehicle, which she then floored, reaching an estimated speed of 30 to 40 mph, while she drove back across Doty Street until she struck the porch of a house on the other side, according to court records.

After she hit the first house, Heinz stopped biting the officer who was in the car with her. He was able to punch her in the face several times but when she accelerated, he “ended up physically flying back into the backseat of the vehicle,” he said. “I was actually almost upside down when we had finally come to a stop.” At that point the car had blown several tires, according to the criminal complaint.

Heinz ran from the scene but was caught by other officers after a short chase.

Judge Teresa Basiliere heard the case with Adam Levin as the prosecutor of record and Brianne Patzer and Kristina Sanders-Brown representing Heinz.

***

A 27-year-old Oshkosh woman, described as making daily runs to Milwaukee to pick up heroin for sale, was sentenced Sept. 6 to 18 months in prison after pleading no contest to drug charges from two incidents earlier this year.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Oshkosh moves to hold on to incentive payments coming due to Menominee Nation Arena owner

The developer of the Menominee Nation Arena has filed for bankruptcy protection.

By Miles Maguire

The city has taken legal action to avoid making incentive payments to the current owner of the Menominee Nation Arena.


“Fox Valley Pro Basketball Inc. … is eyeing tax increment financing funds to execute a Hail Mary attempt to avoid liquidation,” the city said in a motion filed Friday. 

“Unless the debtor demonstrates a credible ability to satisfy the requirements for assuming its agreement with the city, the court should not require the city give the debtor hundreds of thousands of dollars that would otherwise be available to a successor-in-interest that will operate the arena as a financially viable property."


The city has agreed to pay Fox Valley $5.5 million, with the first installment, about $430,000, to be disbursed Nov. 1. But in a 127-page filing, the city argues that it should not have to turn over this money because its agreement with the arena developer has not been fully carried out.

Greg Pierce, the president of Fox Valley, was not immediately available for comment. Mayor Lori Palmeri declined comment. 

The city wants Fox Valley to act by Oct. 31 to hold up its end of the bargain. This would entail paying costs incurred by the city, some of which are past due; satisfying existing liens; resolving existing loan defaults; and providing assurances about future performance. 

If the city is successful in holding on to the payments, it would undermine the arena developer's plan to reorganize under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code. The developer filed for bankruptcy protection Aug. 19, and a hearing is scheduled in the case Oct. 2. 

According to legal papers, the single largest revenue source that the arena is looking at from October through January is the tax incentive payment that could arrive in November.

As an alternative to an order allowing it to hold on to the money, the city said it should get some form of financial protection for payments that it makes. "If the City is required to pay this year’s ... payment to the debtor, the court [should] also require the Debtor to post a bond or provide other adequate protection for the city’s interest in the ... payment."

The developer owes more than $20 million to a variety of suppliers and lenders. Its largest creditor is Bayland Buildings Inc., the general contractor for the project, which is owed $13 million. Fox Valley also has a large number of individual shareholders, many of them from Oshkosh, who could lose their investments if the company goes under.

"We want to make sure the development succeeds. That's why we filed the motion," said City Manager Mark Rohloff. "Whoever ultimately owns the arena is who we want to help."

The incentive payments, called tax incremental financing or TIF, were promised to offset extraordinary development costs associated with the arena, including city infrastructure and environmental remediation. The public money should go to support the development and not the developer, Rohloff said.

The filing calls into question the developer's ability to move ahead. The arena "apparently only has just enough money to operate before accounting for its millions of dollars of debt and special assessments," the city said. It also criticized the terms of loan the arena has received from Windward Wealth Strategies, a local investment firm that is also headed by Pierce.

Without this intervention, the city faced the possibility that the incentive payments would be used to pay off the Windward loan.  "For the funds from the TIF to go to settle a bankruptcy, that’s not the purpose of the TIF incentive," Rohloff said. The money was always intended to support the arena, "not to pay off a popcorn vendor or anything like that."

The city's motion raises doubts about the developer's actions and representations. The filing cites a 2017 development agreement with the city in which Fox Valley said it had  “sufficient funds through equity and debt financing sources to continuously operate, maintain and fulfill" the arena project.

In addition "there are serious questions about how the debtor spent the $19.7 million it reported it raised to the Securities and Exchange Commission," the city said. 

The city itemized the amounts it is owed by the arena: 
  • Police and Fire...$12,659. 
  • Utilities...$7,609. 
  • Miscellaneous ... $173.
  • Attorney's fees ... $24,294. 

Monday, September 2, 2019

Around the Winnebago courthouse: meth cases, eluding police, passing out at Walmart parking lot

By Miles Maguire
A 35-year-old Oshkosh woman, who according to court papers “allows her 16-year-old son to sell marijuana, but not harder drugs,” pleaded guilty Aug. 30 to a charge of dealing methamphetamine from a house on West 8th Avenue.

Ivy M. Hill, who had seven other charges dismissed but read into the record, was sentenced to 30 days in jail with work release. She was also given three years’ probation and ordered to pay back as much as $1,245 in buy money that was used in undercover drug deals. (The exact amount will depend on whether previously convicted codefendants contribute to the reimbursement.)

According to court documents, Hill arranged for an undercover officer to buy 1.4 grams of meth on Oct. 8, another 3.87 grams of meth on Oct. 10, 3.9 grams of meth on Oct. 16, and 5.5 grams of meth of Oct. 24. On Oct. 19, court papers state, Hill provided three ecstasy pills and six baggies of marijuana on consignment to an undercover officer.

Hill was represented by Matthew Goldin. Stephanie Stauber appeared for the state before Judge Teresa Basiliere.

***

A 29-year-old Oshkosh man who ran two stop signs on Division Street “at a high rate of speed” and then blasted out of the parking lot behind the Magnet Bar when confronted by an officer pleaded guilty Aug. 26 to a charge of using a vehicle to elude police.

Andrew D. Erdmann, who lives in the 500 block of Washington Avenue, “appeared to be heavily intoxicated or under the influence of something” when stopped Dec. 17, according to court papers. For safety reasons, Oshkosh police did not attempt to pursue him. He was driving a white Ford F150 and was later apprehended by Neenah police.

Judge Karen Seifert gave Erdmann 12 months of probation, and a 90-day jail sentence was stayed. Erdmann was represented by Nila Robinson. Anthony Prekop appeared for the state.
***

A 48-year-old Oshkosh man who stopped paying child support in 2013 was sentenced Aug. 26 to 60 days in jail with work release.

Dennis E. Veach, of Sherman Road, pleaded no contest in July to a criminal complaint that said he was $26,971 in arrears as of June 2018.

Veach appeared before Judge Barbara Key. He was represented by Steven Smits, and Amanda Nash represented the state.

***

A 28-year-old Ripon man who was found passed out in a car at Walmart on Washburn Street pleaded no contest Aug. 28 to a charge of methamphetamine possession.

When police roused him, Devon B. Jansen “did not have any idea what time of day it was, or how he had gotten to Walmart,” police said in a criminal complaint.

Police found a scale, pills and six grams of meth in various vents in Jansen’s car, according to court documents. Police said Jansen first denied there were any drugs in his car. But after he was told what had been located, Jansen told police, “Oh, I forgot that was in there.”

Judge Karen L. Seifert imposed and stayed a 60-day jail term conditioned on counseling and attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous. A second charge of possession of a controlled substance was dismissed but read into the record. Ryan Ulrich represented Jansen, and Adam Levin appeared for the state.