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Ex-Wascott town official sentenced for misconduct

In May 2008, Janice Newsome of Wascott started looking into the way her town government operated.

What she found will send a former Wascott town official to jail for six months.

Former Wascott Town Clerk/Treasurer Valda Bremanis, 66, of Gulf Breeze, Fla. received the sentence Friday in Douglas County Circuit Court, about 5½ years after Newsome found problems with the town's records and fund balances.

Newsome's discovery led to a state investigation and forensic audit that revealed $72,426 was missing from the town's coffers.

Bremanis, first elected in 1999, resigned her post in February 2009, making a vague apology without admitting what she had done.

"I am so sorry for what I did and especially that I hurt those who believed and trusted me. All I can say is that I had a very bad lapse in judgment," Bremanis wrote in her resignation letter.

Bremanis pleaded no contest to one count of felony misconduct in public office in September, admitting that she was responsible for the misappropriation. Even before the charges were filed, Bremanis repaid $72,000 to the town.

"I am extremely sorry for everything I did," Bremanis told the court Friday. "I am most sorry for letting down people who had trust in me."

Judge George Glonek agreed with a presentence investigation that didn't seek supervision in the case, but said that didn't preclude punishment for the crime. Glonek said Bremanis' actions divided the small town in southern Douglas County.

With the state conducting an investigation into the town's business in 2009, 72 percent of the town's voters ousted the three-member board that failed to seek annual audits since 1999 as required by state law because the clerk and treasurer positions were combined.

"An elected official has the fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the public," Newsome said, reading from her victim impact statement. "The public has the right to demand strict standards of diligence, responsibility and honesty. Honest public service means being conscientious, loyal, faithful, disinterested and unbiased. Honest public service is performed free of deceit, undue influence, conflict of interest, self-enrichment, self-dealing, concealment, bribery, fraud and corruption."

Newsome said Bremanis conducted more than 100 unlawful acts between 2001, when a state investigation revealed the misappropriation of town funds began, and May 2008, when Newsome began seeking public record.

In addition to jail time, Bremanis was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and submit a DNA sample, and pay all related court costs and surcharges

According to the criminal complaint, Bremanis admitted to a Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation special agent that she forged documents by writing town checks payable to credit card companies she did personal business with. She acknowledged falsifying check registers, copies of checks returned by the town's bank and other town documents, in an attempt to show they were used for legitimate town business.

In addition, she admitted forging minutes of the town's executive committee, a meeting the board denied ever took place, to pay her husband -- former town assessor Andy Bremanis -- a $20,000 bonus for his work on computerized records in the town re-valuation performed by Associated Appraisal Consultants. Town records listed two $10,000 payments.

Bremanis said her husband was not aware of what she was doing.

Under the terms outlined by the judge, Bremanis can serve her sentence in Florida at no expense to Douglas County, if it can be arranged; however, Glonek denied a request for Huber release made by Bremanis' attorney, Rick Gondik, so she could continue volunteer work she does there.

Once served, the Florida jail would have to verify that to the Douglas County court.

Bremanis has 30 days to arrange to serve her sentence in Florida and get verification to the county jail or she must report to the Douglas County Jail on Dec. 14 to serve the time.