Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Lawyer named to investigate Nickolaus complaint

-By Laurel Walker

July 13, 2011- Waukesha – A former Dane County deputy district attorney who is now a criminal defense attorney has notified the JoAnne Kloppenburg campaign that he is investigating the campaign's April 20 complaint accusing Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus of misconduct in carrying out her election duties during the spring election for state Supreme Court.

Melissa Mulliken, manager for the Kloppenburg campaign, said Wednesday she had recently been notified by attorney Tim Verhoff that he was following up on the complaint she filed with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.

She had urged the board to appoint a special investigator so that an objective, thorough investigation would be ensured. The board has apparently done so, Mulliken said.

Neither Verhoff nor board spokesman Reid Magney would confirm the appointment or comment. The board and its staff are bound by confidentiality requirements involving elections complaints.

Verhoff served in the Dane County district attorney's office beginning in 2000 as an assistant, then as deputy district attorney, before leaving in January to join attorney Corey Chirafisi in a new Madison law firm.

Nickolaus became the focus of complaints after she failed to include city of Brookfield votes in her unofficial election night results in the April 5 Supreme Court race. Nickolaus waited until two days later to explain her mistake in a news conference, but the foul-up prompted criticism and cynicism over her alleged motives and partisanship.

Kloppenburg had initially led incumbent Justice David Prosser by 204 votes but ultimately lost by about 7,000 votes. A statewide recount confirmed the outcome.

Attorney Susan Crawford, who prepared the complaint, said while the elections board had already started an investigation into Nickolaus' office operations and practices after the April 5 election, the board staff had indicated confidence and support for her despite her mistake. She also cited an email from Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel, a fellow Republican, offering support and encouragement after her news conference.


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