Wisconsin Examiner

Mount Pleasant Resident Files Ethics Complaint Against Village President Over Dumping

Dave DeGroot accused of self-dealing to dump pond muck onto public property.

By , Wisconsin Examiner - May 30th, 2024 10:43 am
The Mount Pleasant property where Village President Dave DeGroot had a contractor dump waste without permission. (Henry Redman | Wisconsin Examiner)

The Mount Pleasant property where Village President Dave DeGroot had a contractor dump waste without permission. (Henry Redman | Wisconsin Examiner)

A Mount Pleasant resident has filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission against Village President Dave DeGroot over the dumping of muck from his neighborhood pond on a village-owned property.

The Wisconsin Examiner reported earlier this month that residents who live near the property complained about DeGroot’s actions, which they saw as an act of self-dealing in order to avoid the substantial cost of paying to have the muck dumped elsewhere. Residents alleged that no other person would have been able to use the property for similar dumping.

The 73-acre property is located off Highway KR, adjacent to the Pike River and a multi-use pathway the village recently constructed along the water. For more than a decade, the village has used the lot to store dirt. Ultimately, the village has plans to turn the property into a public park.

Last fall, residents began seeing trucks dumping “black sludge” into the park. One neighbor, Kevin Rannow, followed the trucks back to their source, a pond in DeGroot’s subdivision, and traced a posted Department of Natural Resources permit to the village president.

DeGroot and the homeowners’ association in his neighborhood have been working to “revitalize” the pond near their homes and acquired the DNR permit to fill a small bit of wetland. The approval from the DNR notes that the homeowners association is “responsible for obtaining any other permit or approval that may be required before starting your project. These include but are limited to local zoning ordinances, shoreland zoning, floodplain zoning, DNR construction site stormwater (for land disturbances greater than an acre), and requirements by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

The contractor hired to complete the project began hauling the waste from the pond to the village property. The pond waste includes a small amount of harmful chemicals, including DDE — a substance that is formed when the banned pesticide DDT breaks down in the environment.

Village staff learned about the dumping and issued a cease and desist order against the contractor. The contractor appealed the decision to the village’s zoning board of appeals, which consists entirely of members appointed by DeGroot. At an appeal hearing, with no input allowed from the public, DeGroot testified in favor of overturning the decision to block the dumping.

At the appeal hearing and a later village board meeting, DeGroot said that dumping at the village property would allow him and his neighbors to avoid the significant costs associated with bringing the waste elsewhere.

“Hey, we’re doing all the heavy lifting, and we’re not asking for much,” DeGroot said at the appeal hearing. “All we want to do is to be able to maintain our budget and not go over it.”

DeGroot, who is also running for the Legislature as a Republican to unseat Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer (D-Racine), previously told the Examiner that his “fingerprints” weren’t on the matter until the appeal hearing and that due process was followed. He has also said the goal of the project is to increase the aesthetic value of his neighborhood and increase the value of his and his neighbors’ homes. DeGroot has also claimed the pond project has public value, although there are private property signs marking the pond’s banks.

The ethics complaint, filed by Mount Pleasant resident Daniel Dimler, alleges that DeGroot used his position for a financial benefit not available to anyone else. Dimler is the husband of Kelly Gallaher, who ran and lost against DeGroot in his most recent re-election campaign.

“Through his contractor, Village President David DeGroot, his wife, and the HOA they represent, embarked upon an illegal activity scheme using public land in violation of village codes under color of his official capacity — to obtain a substantial financial benefit not available to any other resident of the village,” the complaint states.

In an exhibit included with the complaint, local residents attempted to obtain a permit from village staff to dump material at the property, only to be told “village staff does not offer permits for dumping on village property.” The complaint also states that when DeGroot chaired a village committee meeting in which the sole agenda item was his neighborhood’s dumping, that was a “gross conflict of interest.”

Mount Pleasant resident files ethics complaint against village president over pond muck dumping was originally published by Wisconsin Examiner.

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