Eight boxes of unprocessed court records from the Coulee Region Joint Municipal Court contain a lot of information — and require a lot of answers that taxpayers have a right to know.
Thanks to a new court supervisor, an unknown number of tickets and court cases — possibly everything from unprosecuted citations to unreported convictions — were discovered.
The Onalaska city administrator has asked the city attorney to investigate.
When the investigation is finished, the public deserves a full accounting:
How many cases have gone unprosecuted — and what will happen to those cases?
How much money was potentially lost with unprosecuted cases — and how much money did the investigation of this nonsense cost taxpayers?
Was this merely clerical incompetence, or were select cases boxed up and shoved in the corner to pay off favors?
How long did this go on before it was discovered?
Who was responsible for the mess and what are or were the consequences?
We need answers to all of those questions — and we need them quickly.
The Coulee Region Joint Municipal Court was founded in 2003 as a collaborative way of handling thousands of ordinance and traffic tickets each year.
The court serves Onalaska, Bangor, Holmen, Rockland, West Salem, Campbell, Holland and Shelby.
We like the collaborative approach. We don’t like the apparent lack of oversight.
When everyone is in charge, no one is.
Eric Rindfleisch told Tribune reporter Anne Jungen: “I technically have little administrative authority within the Coulee Region Joint Municipal Court, but as the new administrator for the city of Onalaska, I took action so we can clean up the files and ensure all the work of the court in the past was done correctly.”
That’s the right approach, but this investigation needs to be on the fast track. The Joint Municipal Court Committee — made up of representatives of the various municipalities — isn’t scheduled to meet until Oct. 19, but the public deserves answers much sooner.
This is a violation of public trust — and that trust can only be regained with a full report that answers the questions.
Someone needs to take charge of this mess and assure taxpayers that there will be administrative oversight going forward to make sure we can trust that the court is operating properly.