Judge John Brinckman has issued a strongly worded rebuttal to the report into his management of the Coulee Regional Municipal Court that led to Onalaska Mayor Joe Chilsen and two common council members calling on him to resign.
The report was commissioned by the council and written by accounting firm Hawkins Ash. It found numerous issues with the processing of citations and raised questions about Brinckman’s oversight of the court.
Onalaska Common Council members Harvey Bertrand and Ron Gjertsen, citing the issues raised by Hawkins Ash, subsequently asked Brinckman to resign, with Chilsen later saying he backed their calls.
Brinckman responded by saying that he had no plans to step down and this week he released a detailed, 10-page rebuttal of the Hawkins Ash report. He concluded the document by stating, “I suggest Hawkins Ash return to the City of Onalaska all fees received for the production of this report.”
The three-page Hawkins Ash report, which was not an audit, cost the city $8,000 and was presented to the council in January. Calls to the La Crosse office of Hawkins Ash for comment on Brinckman’s assertions about the report were not returned by the Coulee Courier’s deadline.
Brinckman states in his rebuttal that Hawkins Ash “didn’t understand differences” between two programs used for the management of cases by the court. This meant discrepancies that to Hawkins Ash appeared to show citations that were not being handled properly were in the judge’s view “normal and to be expected results.”
Brinckman noted that he was not present while the Hawkins Ash team conducted its investigation but said that he or other court officials could have answered basic questions about some of the discrepancies, if they had been asked to do so.
“You didn’t bother to ask questions about how the financial management had been handled in the past,” Brinckman said. “A few questions here and there would have eliminated most of your concerns.”
The judge added that the Hawkins Ash report “provided little to no significant information to the city council while allowing much ambiguous and misleading innuendo to be inferred.”
Brinckman continued, “Furthermore, Hawkins Ash went out of its way to provide an incorrect narrative on the part time Judge which clearly falls outside the scope of the agreed-upon procedures.”
Bertrand, asked earlier this week about Brinckman’s comments, said he stood by his calls for the judge to resign.
“I just don’t think I have a basis on which to doubt their report,” he added about Hawkins Ash.
Brinckman has been invited by the mayor to speak at the next meeting of the city council and the judge has said he wants an opportunity to put his case to the council. He ran unopposed for the municipal court judge’s position in 2016, when he was re-elected to a four-year term.
The Coulee Region Joint Municipal Court processes city ordinance and traffic citations issued by the police departments for the city of Onalaska, villages of Bangor, Holmen, Rockland and West Salem, and the towns of Campbell, Holland and Shelby.