|Alderman James Bohl|
By Bruce Vielmetti and Don Walker
He's suspected of pressuring landlord to evict sex offenders
Milwaukee Ald. Jim Bohl is under investigation for allegedly causing a landlord to get hit with a slew of code violations after he refused to evict two sex offenders from a property in the alderman's district.
Investigators from the district attorney's office believe Bohl then had the landlord's records falsely wiped clean after the landlord said he had broken a state housing contract for the offenders. The landlord, in fact, did not break that contract.
The investigation is revealed in a search warrant that seeks phone and email records of Bohl; his aide Todd Peterson; Department of Neighborhood Services inspector Todd Vandre; and an audit trail of DNS records related to nine of the landlord's properties.
The warrant indicates investigators were seeking evidence of misconduct in public office, and threats to injure or accuse of a crime. Both are felonies.
According to the search warrant affidavit, Bohl told the landlord's property manager in October that the two tenants "needed to go" from a house in the 3200 block of N. 77th St.
The men were both on supervised release under the state's Chapter 980 law that allows civil commitment beyond prison sentences for certain sex offenders. They were placed in the house through an August contract established by the state Department of Health Services, which oversees Chapter 980 subjects.
Within a few a days of the conversation with Bohl, property owner Jeff Stockinger told his manager that he had recently been hit with orders to correct a variety of violations issued by the city's Department of Neighborhood Services at his properties. All were from the same inspector, Vandre, and dated Oct. 15 through Oct. 18.
"I was shocked, stunned and scared," said Jim Miller, who worked as Stockinger's property manager. "Jeff was livid. He thought it would put him out of business."
Miller said that before the violations were issued, Bohl offered to take money out of his campaign fund to make Stockinger whole for three months' of rental — an allegation Bohl denied through his attorney. Miller said the monthly rent at the home where the two tenants were living was $1,250 a month, or $3,750 for the three months.
"Jeff never responded to the offer," Miller said.
On Oct. 24, Stockinger and Miller met with Bohl at the City Market, 8725 W. North Ave. According to Miller, Bohl said he was sorry to "play hardball" but that under no circumstances would he allow the sex offenders to live in his district.
"When he made that hardball comment, it really pissed me off," Miller said Thursday.
"We knew we didn't want to go toe-to-toe with him," Miller said. "We said there's no way to get out of the lease. Bohl said the violations weren't going to go away."
Miller said Stockinger asked Bohl would happen if the lease were to go away. Miller said Bohl said the violations would be wiped clean.
After Miller agreed to ask the state to break the lease, Bohl told Stockinger the many code violation orders would be "magically lost" and Stockinger could avoid the $20,000 to $40,000 in repairs the orders called for, according to the affidavit.
A district attorney's office investigator, Robert Stelter, said in an affidavit that the violations began to disappear from the Department of Neighborhood Services' records. When some remained, Miller called Peterson to complain and was told: "We can't just wipe the slate clean quickly. They'll very slowly trickle off."
Miller said he called the state employee in charge of placing sex offenders in the community and explained the situation. Then he called Bohl's office.
"I called Bohl's office and updated him," Miller said. "Bohl seemed pleased with this."
Officials at the state Department of Health Services, the agency that oversees placement of sex offenders, acknowledged they were aware of the investigation.
Inspection reports included with the search warrant application show Stockinger's properties were cited for a variety of violations and he was ordered to clear gutters, connect downspouts, pave parking areas, paint wood trim, repair or replace porch railings, roofing, mortar and a broken window, and install a dryer vent cover, among other repairs.
Attorney Mike Maistelman, who often represents clients at City Hall in licensing and has represented elected officials in other cases, said Thursday he was Bohl's lawyer.
In a statement released by Maistelman and attributed to Bohl, the aldermen said: "As my constituents well know, the safety of the residents of my district has been and always will be my number one priority. It is disappointing to see these allegations made public before a full examination of the facts was completed. I look forward to working with investigators to answer any and all questions and to resolve any outstanding issues."
Maistelman said the allegation that Bohl offered to cover the landlord's losses from his campaign fund is "unequivocally not true."
Aside from the statement, Bohl did not respond to emails or phone calls. He was not home when a reporter stopped there.
A source familiar with the probe said Bohl had been aware of the pending investigation for some time. Maistelman declined to comment on that.
Peterson, Bohl's aide, said his attorney had advised him not to comment on the matter. He then hung up the phone.
A spokesman for the city's Department of Neighborhood Services released a statement after the investigation was made public.
"Regarding the investigation mentioned in the Journal Sentinel, DNS was made aware of the situation by the district attorney's office. DNS is fully cooperating with the district attorney. Due to the nature of the investigation, DNS has no additional comment at this time," the statement said.
Bohl, 42, was first elected in 2000 and is serving his fourth full term represented the 5th Aldermanic District following his re-election in April 2012.
|Alderman Tony Zielinski|
Where sex offenders should be allowed to live has been a divisive issue for at least a decade, since _____ quietly moved into a home on the northwest side of Milwaukee.
Protests led to a search for alternative sites, each of which encountered its own resistance from neighbors. There was talk of making the state build a group facility somewhere in the county for sex offenders released under Chapter 980
Most recently, _____ finally won supervised release from Chapter 980 commitment after years of trying. His planned placement in the Bay View area met with more subdued concern.