Conflict of Interest Found With Common Council and Carlson Investigation

Mike Feirer. Courtesy of the City of Marshfield.

MARSHFIELD, WI (OnFocus) – A potential conflict of interest has surfaced within the City of Marshfield Common Council in the wake of theft charges being levied against former Municipal Clerk of Courts Susan Carlson.

Carlson has been accused of stealing $73,000 in public fees and funds during her time as the Municipal Clerk of Courts from 2016 – 2021. According to an open records request filed by OnFocus, the City of Marshfield Common Council has discussed the matter three times in closed session since the request for investigation was filed with the Department of Criminal Investigation in February of 2021.

Alderman Ed Wagner said the council was made aware of a conflict during the last closed session about the investigation involving Carlson but was unsure if a conflict of interest should be in play at this time.

“Yeah we were [made aware of the relation to Carlson],” Wagner said. “I don’t think there was any formal [notice] but I think people knew of the relationship.”

Alderman Michael Feirer had been present at all three of those closed sessions that had centered around discussing the investigation into Carlson. During the third closed session on March 8, 2022 and after charges had been filed against Carlson, Feirer’s relation to Carlson was brought up and Feirer was excluded from the remainder of the closed session.

Wagner said the Council should be keeping conflicts of interest out of its proceedings no matter how insignificant they might seem.

“If it’s going to become an issue, I wish that [Feirer] had recused himself and not let it get to this situation,” Wagner said. “We’re supposed to not only avoid impropriety in public office but we’re supposed to avoid the perception of impropriety and I wish he had recused himself a long time ago so that we wouldn’t have this question being asked.”

Alderman Adam Fischer said at this time the council will not be discussing the potential conflict but if it were to be brought to the council via complaint, they would have to discuss it.

“I don’t know. I think if that were to transpire, someone would have to bring it to the council,” Fischer said. “Someone would have to bring some type of complaint to the council for the council to take a look at it.”

Fischer said after seeing posts on social media disparaging the City for its mismanagement, he wanted to remind people that the City doesn’t have much to do with the oversight of the municipal court.

“I want people to understand that the municipal court, though it is obviously involved in the city, it is self-managed and self-regulated outside of the city,” Fischer said. “I want people to understand that city administration and city council doesn’t oversee that court. That court is overseen by the municipal judge. That municipal judge is elected by the public. He or she oversees their clerk.”

City Administrator Steve Barg sent out a release that confirmed that the City would be exploring options to have better oversight of the municipal court to prevent another such situation from occurring.

After a long and dramatic removal of former Mayor Bob McManus last year, issues with the Police and Fire Commission earlier this year and now this, Wagner said the situation is not what the council needs right now.

“This council has had its share of controversy and I can tell you flat out I’m not looking forward to another one,” Wagner said.

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News Desk
Author: News Desk