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UPDATE: Preliminary hearings set for contractor accused of misusing funds after effort to dismiss chargesSubmitted: 07/17/2019
UPDATE: Preliminary hearings set for contractor accused of misusing funds after effort to dismiss charges
Stephen Goin
Stephen Goin
Reporter/Anchor
sgoin@wjfw.com

VILAS COUNTY - UPDATE 7/18/2019

An earlier version of this report conflated the two criminal complaints filed against contractor Gerald Stodola.

The first complaint filed February 14, concerns Stodola and a homeowner who alleges Stodola failed to inform the homeowner of a delay in construction. The first complaint also alleges theft by contractor.

The second complaint also filed February 14, concerns Stodola and the St. Germain Chamber of Commerce, whose leaders also allege theft by contractor. They believe Stodola used money meant for a new chamber building for other purposes.

The defense argued in both cases that the plaintiffs, both represented by the Asst. District Attorney, did not show probable cause in their complaints.


Judge Neal Nielsen rejected the defenses motion to dismiss the first complaint, saying the fact that Stodola did not finish the job he was hired to do was evidence enough to show probable cause.

Nielsen rejected the defenses motion to dismiss the second complaint because Stodla himself mentioned using funds for the St. Germain project for something else. Nielsen believed that showed probable cause.

Preliminary hearings for both cases are set for September 18, 2019.



ORIGINAL STORY 7/17/2019




A contractor accused of mishandling more than $97,000 meant for the construction of a new Chamber of Commerce building in St. Germain hoped to have the charges against him dismissed.

Gerald Stodola appeared in court Wednesday, where Vilas Co. Circuit Court Judge Neal Nielsen heard motions to dismiss criminal complaints filed against Stodola.

At the top of the hearing, Judge Nielsen revealed he ordered the two parties to hold a pre-hearing conference; the defense and prosecution admitted no conclusion was reached.

The first complaint filed February 14, alleged Stodola failed to inform the St. Germain Chamber of Commerce there would be a delay in construction, which Stodola ultimately never finished. The second complaint also filed February 14, alleged Stodola used some of the money for the St. Germain project for other purposes.

In an effort to dismiss the first complaint, Stodola's defense argued that the prosecution did not include all of the relevant information needed to show Stodola misused the money and how.

The defense referenced a Wisconsin Supreme Court case, State v. Mann, which establishes probable cause can not be found if material information is intentionally or recklessly omitted. The defense cited change orders that were not a part of the criminal complaint as necessary to show wrongdoing.

However, the prosecution and defense agreed Stodola's contract with the chamber was a fixed-price deal not based on cost of materials or labor. Nielsen parlayed that concurrence into his dismissal of the first motion, saying Stodala not finishing the job he was hired to do was evidence enough. The judge added that the prosecution need not include all evidence in their complaint to show probable cause.

"That's sufficient statement for purposes of probable cause, fleshing out any potential offenses would come after that," said Nielsen.

Nielsen used similar reasoning regarding the second case to determine if Stodola should face charges for stealing Chamber money. He ultimately rejected the motion to dismiss the second complaint as he did the first.

"So I am going to find, for today's purposes that the complaint in this case filed in February does provide sufficient evidence for Mr. Stodola," said Nielsen.

The prosecution supported Nielsen's decision saying they believe the question is not whether a crime was committed but how severe.

A preliminary hearing for both cases is set for September 18, 2019.

Stodola's attorney says his client won't make a statement at that time.


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