Saturday State News Briefs: Reciver appointed by court to take over Funeral Directors AssociationWisconsin News
-- A court-appointed receiver was named today to operate the Wisconsin Funeral Directors Association, after questions were raised about a fund that covers prepaid funerals.
MADISON - A court-appointed receiver was named today to operate the Wisconsin Funeral Directors Association, after questions were raised about a fund that covers prepaid funerals.
The state Justice Department said over ten thousand people bought prepaid funeral plans, and the fund that provides those funerals lost millions-of-dollars in risky investments. A Dane County judge was told today that the fund could be short by $21-million, or maybe more. Milwaukee attorney John Wirth was appointed as the receiver. He told the association’s 500 funeral homes to stop selling prepaid funeral plans, until he could determine the group’s financial condition. Wirth said the fund should have $70-million – but instead, there’s a multi-million dollar shortfall. The Justice Department would not say whether it’s conducting a criminal probe. Wirth promised an “open and transparent” examination of the funeral association’s finances. Those who bought pre-paid funerals did so through their local funeral homes – but the money was sent to the state association, which invested it and lost it. Wirth said he would focus on the association, and not on the individual funeral homes. He said funeral homes are generally small family businesses, and he saw no need to question their conduct.
Democratic candidates for president have won Wisconsin every election year since 1988. Nonetheless, the party isn’t taking the Badger State for granted. U.S. Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made a Friday appearance in downtown Waukesha for the Obama campaign. She spoke for the Affordable Care Act, which is known as Obamacare. Sebelius says when it is fully in place, it will provide economic and health security for Americans. Republican candidate Mitt Romney has said he wants to repeal the legislation. The GOP feels Wisconsin’s electoral votes can be won. That’s one of the reason’s Congressman Paul Ryan was chosen as Romney’s vice presidential running mate.
Calling his story of a third man pulling the trigger, a Milwaukee County judge gave convicted murderer Jorge Michael Martinez a 35 year sentence yesterday. Martinez has never admitted pulling the trigger, firing the shot that killed Andrew Tyler during a home invasion burglary last December. A co-defendant said Martinez felt he’d been cheated by the 24 year old Tyler. Witnesses say Martinez demanded money that night and Tyler gave him all he had, a $20-dollar. Tyler was shot several times as he was backing away from Martinez. The defendant will be on extended supervision for 15 years when he gets out of prison.
The Government Accountability Board estimates the total cost of the June recall election aimed at Governor Scott Walker topped 13 million dollars. State Representative Robin Vos (R-Burlington) is a critic of recalls who says he is more committed than ever to get rid of them. Vos is a Republican who figures to be the next Wisconsin State Assembly speaker. Vos says he will introduce a constitutional amendment which would allow elected officials to be recalled only if they committed a crime or malfeasance in office. Currently, office holders can be recalled for any reason, as long as enough signatures on petitions are collected. For the change to go into effect, it would have to make it through the entire Legislature twice, over two separate sessions, then be approved by voters in a statewide referendum.
A $52 million dollar damage award won by a Wisconsin-based company has been overturned by a federal judge in Madison. Promega Corporation had sued a California company for patent infringement, but the judge said Promega failed to prove its case. Promega’s suit involved its Short Tandem Repeat technology which is used in DNA testing. California-based Life Technologies had a license from Promega to use its products in certain fields, but it had alleged Life Technologies was making, using and selling products in other areas not covered by the licensing agreement. Federal Judge Barbara Crabb ruled much of the evidence provided to the court was “vague.”
It almost sounds like Wisconsin drug dealers had a personal shopper. When 28-year old Audra Haase was arrested at Macy’s in Madison’s Hilldale Shopping Center, she was not only carrying drugs and drug paraphernalia, she also had several items from the store in her possession, along with a shopping list. Police say she was to take the merchandise and trade it for drugs and money. The list included clothing sizes and number and type of garments which had been ordered. Haase was arrested yesterday afternoon. A pair of True Religion jeans was on the list, but police say their suspect ran out of time and wasn’t able to fulfill the request for trousers.
A vice-chancellor at UW-Milwaukee will be sworn in on Tuesday to serve as an alternative U.S. representative in the United Nations. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has endorsed the nomination of Joan Prince, and a full Senate vote is expected later this month. Prince is scheduled to be sworn in by President Obama – who originally nominated her – and by UN Ambassador Susan Rice. Once installed, she’ll immediately begin her tenure as a U.S. diplomatic representative with a rank of ambassador. UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mike Lovell said Prince has been quote, “an integral part of the UWM family for four decades.” He said she would continue to serve the university during her appointment. And Lovell said her appointment is certain to quote, “open more doors for international opportunities for our students, faculty, and staff.”
The body of a missing fisherman in Shawano County was found today in Korth Lake. Rescuers found 57-year-old Kenneth Robinson of Green Bay in about 19-feet of water. Authorities were alerted last evening by someone who saw an empty boat circling in the lake. A search took place last night and again this morning, until Robinson’s body was discovered a little before 9:30. An autopsy is planned for tomorrow.
Milwaukee’s largest hospital is about to get even larger. Froedtert Hospital said today it plans to start construction before the end of the year on a $117-million expansion and renovation project. It will include a new 480,000-square foot building next to the cancer center that Froedtert shares with the Medical College of Wisconsin. Both institutions are located on the same campus in Wauwatosa, just north of the Milwaukee County Zoo. Hospital president Cathy Buck says Froedtert is currently pushed to its capacity in several areas of treatment, due to a steady growth in the demands for its services. The number of surgeries at Froedtert grew by 72-percent over the last decade. Doctors performed over 18-thousand operations at Froedtert last year. It’s the academic center for the nearby Medical College. It’s also where the most serious trauma victims throughout southeast Wisconsin go for specialized care.
A man killed in an eastern Wisconsin traffic crash was identified Friday as 79-year-old Harold Radant of Manitowoc. Manitowoc County sheriff’s deputies said Radant’s vehicle drove through a stop sign on a rural road, and collided with a semi-truck on Highway 42 driven by a 28-year-old Algoma resident. A third vehicle driven by a 45-year-old Green Bay man was damaged by debris from the crash site. The mishap occurred during the noon-hour yesterday in the Manitowoc County town of Two Creeks. Deputies and the State Patrol continue to investigate.
A state commission has said no for a second time to letting a Green Bay murder convict go on parole. 65-year-old Michael Johnson is one of five men serving life prison terms for the 1992 slaying of paper-mill worker Tom Monfils. Officials said his parole application was reviewed, and was turned down. His next possible chance at parole will be in early 2014. Dale Basten and Michael Hirn are eligible for parole later this year. Rey Moore will be up next spring. And Keith Kutska is next eligible for parole in early 2015. They were all convicted in 1995 of beating the 35-year-old Monfils, tying a weight around his neck, and dumping him down a pulp vat at the former James River Paper Mill near Green Bay. Prosecutors said the men were upset that Monfils told police that Kutska was about to steal a coil of wire from the plant. That report led to Kutska being suspended. A sixth defendant, Michael Piaskowski, was freed by a federal judge who said there was not enough evidence to find him guilty.
A Milwaukee police officer was shot-and-wounded overnight while scuffling with two suspects. Two officers were called to a north side neighborhood after shots were fired just past midnight. Two suspects, ages 39 and 24, got into an argument with the officers. Police officials said it led to a physical struggle – and one of the officers was shot in the leg. His injuries were not thought to be life-threatening. The 24-year-old officer has been on the Milwaukee police force for two years. Both suspects were arrested. The 39-year-old has been arrested in the past for battery, reckless endangerment, and drug-related charges. The 24-year-old was previously arrested for driving after a license was revoked.