By Brad Hicks
FOND DU LAC COUNTY (WITI) - FOX6′s Brad Hicks set out to do a story on taxpayer money, and how the state is spending it. However, sometimes stories take an unexpected turn — which is what happened in this instance.
Kirk Everson is proud to promote his Fond du Lac County compost company. He’s not afraid of being in the limelight as a lawyer — and he’s even a bit of a ham, appearing in the popular Chad Vader spoofs.
However, there is one thing Everson doesn’t want to talk about — not at his home, at his office, over the phone, or after his court appearance.
Steve Troscan wishes he had heard about Everson when he moved his mom from the family home into an assisted living facility. He says the house wasn’t selling until someone swooped in with a cash offer.
“From what I understood, the man was a lawyer from Fond du Lac. My sister and I would have never sold the house if we would have known this,” Troscan said.
The Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center in Juneau treats the worst sex offenders in Wisconsin — men who, after their prison terms, are still too dangerous to set free. They are committed to Sand Ridge to be treated, and most will never get out.
However, each year, a handful make enough progress that the state orders they be returned to the community, where they will be supervised and under tight restrictions.
Currently, there are 33 sexually violent offenders under supervised release.
The Department of Health Services returns them to the county from which they came. There is usually outrage and concern when a sex offender is placed in a neighborhood, but the law says they have to be placed.
These sex offenders live in rented homes that the state pays for with taxpayer dollars at prices that are nothing like what neighbors pay.
In one Milwaukee neighborhood, the state pays $1,900 a month to house a sex offender, which is about $1,000 more than neighbors pay in monthly rent.
Lydia Nichols rents a new two-bedroom in Manitowoc. Next door is a one-bedroom and home to a sex offender. The state pays $1,600 a month for the one-bedroom, while Nichols pays just $650.
The state says the rent is so high because it is hard to find suitable housing for these sex offenders. For starters, not a lot of people want to rent to the violent sex offender program. It can be risky for a landlord’s reputation. Also, places like Racine are tightening the reigns on where sex offenders can live.
Bob Peterson is a lawyer who represents many of the sex offenders at Sand Ridge and has seen how hard it can be to place them. Peterson says if more people were willing or able to rent, rent for sex offenders would go down.
“If there’s an individual that’s willing to do that, I look at is as they’re doing a public service,” Peterson said.
From that perspective, no one is providing a bigger “public service” than a company called Ervin J. Fenske. The Milwaukee home renting for $1,900 and the Manitowoc home renting for $1,600 are both Fenske properties. The company also owns a home Wisconsin rents for a sex offender in Wheatland, one in Beloit, one in Eau Claire and one in Marathon County.
In fact, Fenske owns 20% of the 30 homes the state rents for sexually violent offenders.
So who is behind this company?