Judge asked to reconsider Ash’s prison sentence
Judge Philip Kirk was scheduled to hear a motion to reconsider Jim Ash’s sentence Wednesday, Aug. 3.
A writ of habeus corpus was issued July 29 to bring Ash from the Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun to Waupaca, but the hearing was cancelled.
“It’s my understanding that the hearing was removed from the calendar and it has not yet been rescheduled,” according to District Attorney John Snider. “The motion has not been withdrawn, to the best of my knowledge, and still needs to be heard and decided.”
On June 29, Kirk sentenced Ash to three years in state prison and five years of extended supervision.
While working as the Waupaca Parks and Recreation director, Ash was accused of stealing more than $200,000 from the city of Waupaca and from donors to park and rec programs.
The city’s insurance carrier, Liberty Mutual Insurance estimated it would pay the city $170,000 to cover the losses.
In his motion for reconsideration of the sentence, Ash’s defense counsel, Tom Johnson, noted that Ash had “been able to raise a substantial amount of restitution to be paid up front.”
According to Johnson, Ash has raised $50,000 to pay toward his restitution. Johnson recommended that the restitution be placed into a trust account to be paid either to the city if it was not fully compensated by its insurance company or to the insurance company if the city had been compensated.
When he sentenced Ash in June, Kirk said, “I think your attorney made one comment that I think is absolutely correct. It’s prison or restitution. Because if you had the ability, you, not the insurance company, you, had the ability to make restitution, that would be a tangible salve that would be placed on this incident, because it provides some type of tangible recompense.”
In light of the amount of restitution that Ash will now pay, Johnson asked the judge to stay the prison sentence and place Ash on probation.
During the sentencing hearing in June, Assistant District Attorney Vicki Clussman asked that Kirk impose and stay a four-year prison sentence, place Ash on probation and give him one year in county jail as a condition of his probation.
Johnson argues in his motion for reconsideration that both parties, the prosecution and the defense, “have reached a joint recommendation for prison to be imposed and stayed, and that the defendant serve one year in the Waupaca County jail with work release privileges.”
On Thursday, Aug. 4, Mayor Brian Smith spoke to the County Post about a meeting he attended with Judge Kirk, City Administrator Henry Veleker, Assistant District Attorney Vicki Clussman and Ash’s attorney Tom Johnson. The meeting was held early Tuesday afternoon, prior to the scheduled hearing.
“The sole purpose of my being at the meeting was to inform the judge that this (Ash’s theft) had been going on for more than six years,” Smith said. “I asked for the judge’s ear and he agreed .”
The statute of limitations only allows Ash to be prosecuted for what he stole over a six-year period. City officials believe the thefts began long before that.
Smith noted that City Treasurer Jean Peterson has continued examining bank and city records going back more than 10 years in an effort to determine how much money Ash stole from the city and donors to Park and Rec programs.
As of Thursday morning, Peterson was still calculating figures from 2000 and had found at least $15,000 in thefts during that one year.
“The city has a fraud insurance policy and it has no limit on the number of years we can go back,” Smith said. “Our ultimate goal is to receive the full amount that we are allowed by the insurance company or by the law.”
Smith said Tuesday’s meeting ended with the defense counsel asking that Kirk remove the motion hearing from Wednesday’s calendar. He said if the motion moves forward, then the hearing would be heard within 30 days.
“We weren’t there to make a deal with anybody,” Smith said regarding the meeting. “We didn’t decide the sentence and we can’t decide the restitution. that’s up to the court.”
Smith said there may be a special council meeting called for Aug. 23, but the meeting has not been scheduled or posted yet.