From the Complaint: Thomas Holmes vs. City of Racine, Case No.: 14-CV-208
5. The Plaintiffs bring this action to recover for injuries caused by the Defendants’ conduct and seek injunctive relief, treble damages, costs of suit and reasonable attorneys’ fees arising from the Defendants’ violation of the Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985(3)) and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (18 U.S.C. § 1962(b)–(d)).
Here is what those statutes address:
42 U.S. Code § 1983 – Civil action for deprivation of rights
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.
42 U.S. Code § 1985 – Conspiracy to interfere with civil rights
(3) Depriving persons of rights or privileges
If two or more persons in any State or Territory conspire or go in disguise on the highway or on the premises of another, for the purpose of depriving, either directly or indirectly, any person or class of persons of the equal protection of the laws, or of equal privileges and immunities under the laws; or for the purpose of preventing or hindering the constituted authorities of any State or Territory from giving or securing to all persons within such State or Territory the equal protection of the laws; or if two or more persons conspire to prevent by force, intimidation, or threat, any citizen who is lawfully entitled to vote, from giving his support or advocacy in a legal manner, toward or in favor of the election of any lawfully qualified person as an elector for President or Vice President, or as a Member of Congress of the United States; or to injure any citizen in person or property on account of such support or advocacy; in any case of conspiracy set forth in this section, if one or more persons engaged therein do, or cause to be done, any act in furtherance of the object of such conspiracy, whereby another is injured in his person or property, or deprived of having and exercising any right or privilege of a citizen of the United States, the party so injured or deprived may have an action for the recovery of damages occasioned by such injury or deprivation, against any one or more of the conspirators.
18 U.S. Code Chapter 96 - RACKETEER INFLUENCED AND CORRUPT ORGANIZATIONS
18 U.S. Code § 1962 – Prohibited activities
(b) It shall be unlawful for any person through a pattern of racketeering activity or through collection of an unlawful debt to acquire or maintain, directly or indirectly, any interest in or control of any enterprise which is engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign commerce.
(c) It shall be unlawful for any person employed by or associated with any enterprise engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign commerce, to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity or collection of unlawful debt.
(d) It shall be unlawful for any person to conspire to violate any of the provisions of subsection (a), (b), or (c) of this section.
Once again, from the Complaint:
160. This pattern and practice of circumventing the provisions of WI Stat. 11, WI Stat. 946, 18 U.S.C. § 1951, 18 U.S.C. § 1956 and other laws continued throughout Dickert’s mayoral campaigns as a continuing enterprise designed to benefit the Defendants to the detriment of the Plaintiffs.
Here is what those statutes address:
18 U.S. Code § 1956 – Laundering of monetary instruments
18 U.S. Code § 1951 – Interference with commerce by threats or violence
(a) Whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion or attempts or conspires so to do, or commits or threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
WI Stat. 11 – Campaign Financing Laws
WI Stat. 946 – Crimes Against Government And Its Administration
Once again, from the Complaint:
161. WI Stat. 11, WI Stat. 946, 18 U.S.C. § 1951, 18 U.S.C. § 1956 and other laws were designed to prevent quid pro quo corruption in Wisconsin municipal governments.
169. The Tavern League and its members pledged legal and illegal financial contributions to facilitate Dickert’s winning of the mayoral race, and in return Dickert colluded with Aldermen, Police Department officials, the Downtown Racine Corporation, BID #1 Board members, and business and property owners to unjustly burden minority bar owners for the purpose of extorting their liquor licenses. These licenses were then made available to white Tavern League members in exchange for their continued public and financial support. Dickert further ensured that white Tavern League members were protected from Police Department, Downtown Racine Corporation, and Licensing Committee scrutiny
So is this pattern, or practice of alleged criminal behavior evident in other actions taken by The City of Racine and it’s officials? In the previous post, the questionable actions taken by Mayor John Dickert’s Ethics Board were exposed, and the recent ethics complaint filed against Mary Jerger Osterman was also revealed. Now it is revealed that the City Of Racine has not only neglected to act timely on those charges, it has also failed to respond timely to open records requests, making it necessary to file a Complaint with The Racine County District Attorney to force The City of Racine to comply with it’s statutory duties.
The open records requests not filled by The City of Racine are concerned with Belle TV, the revenue it has generated, and the disposition of equipment bought and sold with taxpayer money. It is also alleged that Mary Jerger Osterman received over $5,000 worth of free production and advertising for her private company.
Below is one of the requests:
In February of 2013, Osterman was involved in voting for, and influencing others to vote for, a Skies Fall Media/BelleTV city contract, with the stated intention of advertising her business on the City station, in spite of it being in direct violation of a city ordinance because of her role as a Cable Commission official. In addition, The City of Racine’s taxpayer funded channel has now admitted to producing the commercial at no charge for Osterman, while it’s rate sheet indicated production costs would have amounted to thousands of dollars for anyone else seeking the same services that Cable Commission member Mary Jerger Osterman received for FREE. All of the above alleged quid pro quo actions are also in violation of City Ordinance sec. 26-23 (B) (5), which ensures public access TV is non-commercial.
City of Racine Ordinances Sec. 26-23. Commission created;duties and responsibilities
(a)Creation. A cable television commission is hereby created, consisting of nine members. Two members shall be members of the common council and shall hold their term for one year; of the remaining members there shall be one representative of each of the following: organized labor, education, business, industry, churches and two representatives from the general public. The mayor shall appoint the commissioners subject to confirmation by the common council. Other than the members of the common council, the term of each member shall be three years. The commission shall receive assistance and administrative services through the human resources department.
(b)Duties and responsibilities. The general duties of the cable television commission shall be as follows:
(1)To review the public usage of the publicly available cable facilities and offer proposals for expansion of public service aspects of the system within the confines of the system’s franchise obligations.
(2)To receive complaints from subscribers regarding service and technical problems, to investigate complaints, to act as mediator with the cable operator in efforts to resolve the complaints and to report to the city and the common council as to unresolved complaints.
(3)To provide periodic reports to the city and the common council as to franchisee’s compliance with franchise obligations.
(4)To draw on city staff for advice and, when authorized by the common council, to retain outside expert technical assistance, the cost of which shall be borne out of the franchise fees of funds specially appropriated by the common council.
(5)To develop a plan for maximum community involvement and utilization of the public, educational and governmental channels. The plan will include regulations governing the operation and ensuring noncommercial usage by residents of the community and procedures for prohibition of obscene material and, to the extent permitted by law, indecent programming.
(6)To review and comment on the mayor’s proposed annual cable communications operations budget prior to it being adopted by the common council.
(7)Grantee shall have full right of due process in the event of any recommendations for penalty or reduction in franchise benefits. Consideration of expansion of franchise obligations may be negotiated between the city and the grantee. Grantee shall be entitled to present evidence of the financial and technical impact on its operations and on subscriber rates.
And in an even more astounding event, The Cable Commission acted outside the legal bounds of their statutory duties and responsibilities and discussed the Ethics Complaint against Cable Commission member Mary Jerger Osterman as an Agenda Item. Why?
The February 24 ,2014 meeting of The Cable Commission was held at Skies Falls Studio, 2745 Chickory Road. That warehouse property is owned by Real Estate Investments Ventures, which lists it’s Principal Office as being located at 375 30th. Ave in Kenosha, WI. That property is owned by Jerry Bloom, who was a John Dickert campaign contributor and fundraiser host. Quid pro quo?
Per The City of Racine Ordinances, Sec. 26-23, which outlines the duties and responsibilities of The Cable Commission, NO authority is granted to The Cable Commission for discussing complaints filed with the Ethics Board. So why is the Cable Commission discussing the Ethics Complaint? And why are they doing this before the Ethics Board has met to discuss the Complaint?
From Racine Community Media:
The Ethics Board is scheduled to discuss the Mary Jerger Osterman Ethics Complaint on March 18,2014.
The Ethics Complaint against Mary Jerger Osterman:
Meanwhile, BelleTV claims to be financially struggling and is already looking for ways to obtain more funding. This was not what the Mayor promised when the contract was given to his friends at Skies Fall Media:
Racine- According to Racine Aldermen and Cable Commissioners, the surrounding communities have had access to the City Of Racine’s cable access TV station, for free, long enough. Despite The City of Racine residents paying $160K a year for the underutilized channel, The City Of Racine will ask outlying communities to pay 3 percent for CAR25/BelleTV. It’s a very surprising move considering the 2012 budget was $80K a year and they currently have no sponsors, and currently have less than 6 community members producing programming. It’s mostly old 3 Stooges, Andy Griffith and Bonanza re-runs airing on the channel now days, and that’s when the channel is even functioning or on-air. In a move that was sold to the community and residents 10 months ago by Mayor John Dickert and others, outsourcing the community channel was to SAVE MONEY and be SELF SUFFICIENT. In less than one year, the budget has doubled and the City Of Racine will now ask outlying communities to contribute 3 percent. When asked what the surrounding communities would receive in return, the answer from the Racine Cable Commission? Nothing.
It was only on Feb. 17, 2013 that The Journal Times ran this Editorial:
Journal Times editorial — Ask city residents if CAR25 is worth more money
Eliminate 600 streetlights to save $108,000. Check.
Try to pass a referendum to circumvent state property tax caps and hike taxes 5 percent. Check.
Save money but cut the city’s ability to fight snowstorms by not filling positions in the Public Works Department when there are retirements. Check.
Go to a new contractor to run the city’s CAR25 cable operations and save …
Wait a minute. Someone apparently told the Racine City Council there would be no math.
Last year, it cost the city about $106,000 to operate CAR25. On Wednesday, the City Council will be asked whether the administration should be allowed to negotiate a one-year contract with private company Skies Fall Media Group. Management Information Systems Director Paul Ancona has said that any contract approved with the company would have to stay within $100,000, but the fact remains that the company’s initial proposal to run the station was for $119,500 a year, plus $47,500 in first-year expenses. The company could agree to the $100,000 amount, but the fact remains that there could be cost overruns down the road. How much those could be is anybody’s guess, but if they run as high as the company initially proposed it would be a 57 percent increase in operation costs.
When does the out of control spending stop? How many more essential services will be cut to fund BelleTV? When is the money enough, or is it ever enough? How many cronies are taking a cut of the funds? What happened to the old equipment? Who controls the new equipment? Why did the Cable Commission discuss an Ethics Complaint? Why did the Ethics Board fail to act in a timely manner? Why is the City of Racine failing to answer Open Records Requests in a timely manner, as required by law? Why was BelleTV moved to a warehouse in Mt. Pleasant owned by Gerry Bloom? Why is a Cable Commission member receiving thousands of dollars worth of free services from the operation she administers?
In the video playlist below, numerous City of Racine officials are allegedly caught lying and violating the bounds of their authority again and again. It was all part of a successful campaign to award the Cable TV contract to Mayor John Dickert’s friends at Skies Fall Media.
These questions just begin to scratch the surface of wondering, What in the Hell is going on at Racine City Hall?
Laws are Arbitrary! Right? Just ask Dan! Thanks Dan!
More information about questionable actions from City of Racine officials can be found here:
The Mayor of No Authority: A Wisconsin Mayor issues an “Executive Order?” Where did the authority for issuing an Executive Order come from? OR is this part of the games being played at Racine City Hall by an ignorant Common Council that seems to grovel at the feet of the Mayor and a questionably competent City Attorney who has led the City of Racine through numerous losing lawsuits that are leading Racine to economic disaster again and again?
The Hustle (Do It Racine): The Mayor John Dickert Plan: Rewarding political cronies, letting others unknowingly pay for it, bankrupting Racine, and maintaining a smile the whole time – PRICELESS~! Except to the thousands of residents who have lost their jobs and businesses, who have been foreclosed on, and who are now facing the largest tax increase in Racine’s history – SO the party can continue on for the cronies of Mayor John Dickert.
The Case of CAR 25: City Hall declares victory, well, kind of, sort of. Hmph. Well, that Paul Ancona sure likes to grant himself all kinds of authority, make unsubstantiated claims, and try to add validity, through outright bluff, to what could optimistically be described as a flawed process. After all the obfuscation, claims, counterclaims and arguing I was as confused as Dirty Harry, unable to remember if it was six shots or only five.
Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary: A look into the Downtown Citizenship of the Treasurer for Mayor John Dickert’s re-election campaign, member of Racine’s Cable Commission, proprietor of Copacetic and activist for Skies Falls Media, Mary Jerger Osterman, along with some close associates.
Did Lying’ John Lie Again?: Previously, in the post The Case of CAR 25 it was revealed how Mayor John Dickert (D) used a deliberate flaw in the Minutes concerning motions and votes over CAR 25 to get what he wanted. While it was wrong, Racine’s Common Council FAILED in it’s duty to catch the flaw and overturn the vote by not accepting the minutes at the next Common Council meeting. Has this same tactic been used again by the Mayor to get his way – concerning the Meredith desire to purchase an ancient Native American burial ground for their personal cemetary plots?
Point Of Order, Mayor Dickert!: Did Mayor John Dickert violate the City of Racine Code of Ordinances – YET AGAIN, by calling for another vote on the Communication from the Meredith family appealing the decision of the Cemetery Commissioners on August 29,2013 denying their request to purchase and plat a circular parcel of land at Mound Cemetery for burial sites. (Res. No. 13-0383)?
*Updated* From the Journal Sentinel:
Feds likely already on the Racine liquor licensing case
When reputable lawyers sue Racine city officials, tavern league members and a downtown business development group claiming they conspired to run minority bar owners out of business, there are going to be questions.
One of the first from many people who heard about the case’s claims was “Are prosecutors on this?”
Oddly for this sort of blockbuster suit, the lawyers weren’t saying much (perhaps letting a recently screened documentary film tell the plaintiffs’ version) But from a series of “can’t comments,” suggest some government authorities, like the federal Department of Justice, are indeed looking hard at liquor license regulation in Racine, and maybe some campaign finances too.