Vilas County supervisor Erv Teichmiller, who is also the chairman of the Oneida-Vilas Transit Commission, has failed to meet with Oneida County detectives who sought on multiple occasions to interview him about conflict-of-interest and other questions raised by The Lakeland Times, the sheriff’s department confirmed this week.
Teichmiller has also so far refused to cooperate with a parallel inquiry by Oneida and Vilas counties. His attorney, Albert Moustakis, has asked the county to provide the legal authority it has to conduct any such review.
In October, after being put off a second time by Teichmiller and more than five weeks after an initial request, Oneida County detective sergeants Chad Wanta and Robert Hebein informed Oneida County district attorney Michael Schiek that Teichmiller appeared to be “avoiding speaking with detectives.”
Detectives first sought to set up an interview with Teichmiller in a Sept. 10 call to him, after The Times and this reporter asked the sheriff’s department to try and get answers to various questions the newspaper considers in the public interest, including whether Teichmiller’s positions on the transit commission and in a nonprofit holding company represent illegal conflicts of interest.
The transit commission rents space in a building owned by the holding company, Community Mental Health Services Holding Company, whose sole function is to hold the building as an asset for Community Mental Health Services Inc., as well as to collect rent and turn over net proceeds to Community Mental Health Services Inc. Teichmiller is the holding company’s principal officer.
The newspaper has also raised questions about the distribution of assets of the now defunct Community Mental Health Services Inc. itself, which dissolved last year. The assets would include the holding company’s building, which has been listed for sale.
According to Wanta’s initial report, he spoke with Teichmiller on Sept. 10.
“I advised Teichmiller of the complaint and that detective sergeant Hebein and I would like to meet to discuss some of the issues presented to us,” Wanta’s report states. “Teichmiller asked specifically what accusations had been made. I advised Teichmiller they pertained to possible conflict of interest issues on Teichmiller’s part related to Teichmiller’s various roles in the community.”
Teichmiller said he was open to meeting but only after consulting with some people, Wanta reported.
“Teichmiller said Teichmiller would meet with detectives but wanted to talk with some other people first,” Wanta wrote. “Teichmiller said he would talk with those people and call me back in a couple weeks.”
More than five weeks later Teichmiller had not called the detective back to arrange a meeting, and so on Oct. 18, Wanta reached out again to set up a meeting. At that point, Teichmiller said he had an attorney and needed to speak with that attorney again before meeting with detectives.
“Teichmiller advised that he had spoken with his attorney already and wanted to speak further with his attorney before meeting with detectives,” Wanta wrote. “Teichmiller said his attorney was currently out of town. Teichmiller said he would speak with his attorney and contact me in the near future.”
As of this writing, on Nov. 19, Teichmiller still had not contacted the detectives.
After the Oct. 18 phone conversation, Hebein and Wanta approached Schiek later that day.
“I advised DA Schiek that it appeared Teichmiller was avoiding speaking with detectives,” Wanta wrote in an Oct. 22 supplemental report. “I advised DA Schiek that detectives would need to issue a subpoena to obtain records regarding Community Mental Health Services and the Oneida-Vilas Transit Commission, to continue the investigation.”
However, Wanta wrote, after further discussion, Schiek and the detectives determined there was not enough information at the time to warrant issuing a subpoena for documents.
“If Teichmiller contacts detectives to meet, the investigation will continue and all further information will be documented in further reports,” Wanta wrote.
Bank and other records needed
Meanwhile, a parallel inquiry by Oneida and Vilas counties has also failed to yield cooperation, at least as of this writing.
On Sept. 16, the Oneida County administration committee authorized county board chairman Dave Hintz to send a letter to Teichmiller seeking similar information. That letter, authored with Vilas County board chairman Ron DeBruyne, was sent Oct. 11.
“As you know, questions have come up regarding the rental of the property at 1831 N Stevens Street in Rhinelander by the Oneida-Vilas Transit Commission, and the potential that you may have, or have had a conflict of interest,” Hintz and DeBruyne wrote to Teichmiller. “The recent audit of the commission did not resolve the issue.”
While Hintz and DeBruyne said they did not know whether an actual conflict existed, they said the question had lingered and they needed Teichmiller’s cooperation to resolve it.
“Therefore, we are asking that you fully cooperate with a review of this issue,” they wrote. “The review will be conducted by a joint effort of the Vilas and Oneida corporation counsel offices. The review team will consist of two attorneys, John R. Albert of Vilas County and Tom Wiensch of Oneida County.”
The attorneys would need specific documents, Hintz and DeBruyne continued.
“The review team will need to receive from you documents that substantiate the entities receiving rent, the persons controlling those entities, and the bank and other records showing how the rent was distributed and used,” they wrote. “The information needs to relate to the situation as it currently stands, and to the period of time since the commission began leasing the property.
In addition to requesting documents, Hintz and DeBruyne wrote, the review team would ask Teichmiller relevant questions. They requested that Teichmiller respond within 10 days.
Teichmiller responded through Moustakis, who informed Hintz and DeBruyne in a letter that he had been retained by Teichmiller to represent him in the matter. It’s unclear whether Moustakis met the 10-day deadline because the letter was undated.
However, Moustakis said he and his client needed more information.
“Please advise what conflict you are referring to in your October 11, 2019, letter and provide us with the details of the alleged conflict — please be specific as to dates of any allegation and why you believe a conflict may have existed so that we may address it,” Moustakis wrote. “Please provide reference to the statutory or other legal authority for your request of information related to the review.”
Hintz’s and DeBruyne’s response would be crucial to advising Teichmiller in his level of participation in the proposed review, Moustakis wrote. Moustakis also directed that Hintz and DeBruyne send any future correspondence to his legal office.
In a Nov. 7 response, Hintz and DeBruyne sent a letter fulfilling Moustakis’s request for specific information. As for what conflict of interest they were referring to, Hintz and DeBruyne cited a May 16 article in the Northwoods River News that reported that the transit commission chaired by Teichmiller rents space from the nonprofit holding company, of which Teichmiller is the principal officer. The two county board chairmen also cited the recent audit of the transit commission, performed by Wipfli LLP, which also reported that the transit commission was leasing space from the nonprofit company presided over by Teichmiller.
The auditors determined they were not qualified to determine the legal issues surrounding the alleged conflict of interest.
But Hintz and DeBruyne said their review was not limited to the controversy surrounding the leased office space.
“We do not have enough information to know if Mr. Teichmiller has, or has had any conflict of interest, or is in violation of any law, ordinance, or policy,” they wrote. “We are interested in knowing if Mr. Teichmiller has, or has had any conflicts of interest in his role as a commissioner of the Oneida-Vilas Transit Commission, whether related to the leased space, or otherwise. We are also interested in knowing if anything about his situation has, at any time, violated any law, ordinance, or policy.”
Hintz and DeBruyne said Teichmiller should have access to the information necessary to assist in making those determinations. They also said they were making their inquiries in their respective roles as the board chairmen of Oneida and Vilas counties, which created and are the sole members of the Oneida-Vilas Transit Commission.
Richard Moore is the author of the forthcoming “Storyfinding: From the Journey to the Story” and can be reached at richardmoorebooks.com.