Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Chantia Lewis Ordered To Pay More Than $27,000

Former alderwoman currently serving 30 days in custody for campaign finance violations.

By - Oct 7th, 2022 04:21 pm
Chantia Lewis speaks at a 2019 press conference on tiny homes for veterans. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Chantia Lewis speaks at a 2019 press conference on tiny homes for veterans. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Former alderwoman Chantia Lewis received the restitution bill for her two campaign finance felonies Friday.

Lewis owes the city of Milwaukee approximately $2,250 and her campaign fund approximately $25,000.

The penalty comes in addition to being removed from office and 30 days in custody, which she is currently serving under house arrest. Lewis was sentenced in August to two concurrent three-year probation sentences for two felony campaign finance violations. She could ultimately serve more time in custody if she violates the terms of her probation, which includes absolute sobriety and a requirement to avoid other criminal behavior. She must complete the restitution payments by the end of her probation.

In a hearing that lasted less than 10 minutes Friday afternoon, Judge Milton Childs read the terms of her agreement into the record.

Lewis pled guilty in July to misappropriating more than $20,000 from her campaign fund and the City of Milwaukee. Her crimes included using campaign funds as a “personal slush fund,” seeking reimbursement for travel expenses from the city and her campaign fund, pocketing campaign contributions and obscuring contributions over the legal limit by splitting them up. She withdrew money from her campaign account using an ATM while in Wisconsin Dells and other vacation destinations.

Her first felony conviction includes a stayed nine-month sentence in the House of Correction. The second conviction includes a stayed three-year state prison term, which would be served half in custody and half in extended supervision. She must perform 50 hours of community service as part of the sentence. As part of the felony convictions, she cannot possess a firearm for the rest of her life and cannot vote until her civil rights are restored.

Assistant district attorney Matthew Westphal asked during an August sentencing hearing for a more substantial sentence. “We need to tell our community that when public servants break the social contract they will be held accountable,” he said, detailing how the issues started within weeks of her being elected in 2016. Westphal asked the court to impose a one-year stay in the Milwaukee County House of Correction and a three-year prison term that was to be suspended for a three-year probationary period. Each felony carried a maximum penalty of 3.5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

But Childs said Lewis’ lack of a prior criminal record and numerous character letters, including those from Congresswoman Gwen Moore and Representative David Bowen, resulted in his lighter sentence. The judge said there have been other consequences, including losing her job, the embarrassment of the proceedings and the felony conviction.

“I thought running for office was traumatizing. This has absolutely been the most traumatizing experience of my life,” said Lewis at the sentencing hearing. She said she was sorry to have let down her colleagues, children, residents of her aldermanic district, church family and the broader community. “This was absolutely not something I did nefariously or with malice. I am just not that type of person.

Lewis said her behavior was “bad judgment” and a “mistake.”

The judge said he accepted her apology on behalf of Milwaukee County. “I think there is remorse,” he said. “It’s not over. You can bounce back.”

Lewis is represented by attorneys Michael Chernin and Michael Maistelman.

She was first elected to the Milwaukee Common Council in 2016 and re-elected in 2020. An Air Force veteran, Alverno College graduate and ordained minister, Lewis, 42, branded the far northwest-side 9th District she represented the “New Ninth” as she sought to reinvigorate the commercial area around the former Northridge Mall. Lewis has been married for 17 years and has three children, ages 16, 15 and 12.

Lewis was once seen as a rising star among Democratic politicians. She filed to run for U.S. Senate in July 2021, the ninth candidate to formally enter the Democratic primary.

In 2018, a proposal by Lewis to raise the salaries of Milwaukee elected officials by 13% was held after news reports of the idea circulated. The base pay for a council member is $73,222. She previously filed for bankruptcy in 2005 and 2008.

Criminal Complaint

The investigation into Lewis, according to the complaint, started with a May 2020 review of multiple council members’ travel expenses and campaign finance disclosures.

“A review of the documents for all of the alderpersons showed material inconsistencies in Lewis’s filings as well as in her reimbursement for city-approved travel. In particular, they showed that Lewis had received reimbursement from the City of Milwaukee for travel, which travel she then paid for out of her campaign account, Chantia 4 Progress, keeping the reimbursement for herself,” says the complaint.

She also used her campaign funds, according to the complaint, to pay for family trips to Marietta, GA and Wisconsin Dells and personal trips to Orlando and Las Vegas. While in the Dells she made three withdrawals from her campaign account at an ATM in an outlet mall.

Her first time submitting falsified travel reimbursement forms to the city occurred in November 2016. She used campaign funds to pay for a trip, then requested reimbursement from the city and deposited the money into her personal bank account.

The complaint also says Lewis improperly used campaign funds to cover costs of tuition at Agape Love Bible College, an automobile loan, a personal credit card bill, car repair and Las Vegas hotel expenses.

A copy of the criminal complaint is available on Urban Milwaukee.

Categories: City Hall, Politics, Weekly

One thought on “City Hall: Chantia Lewis Ordered To Pay More Than $27,000”

  1. Paul Nannis says:


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