Selective non-enforcement of laws tilts the scale of justice.
The purpose of our laws is to control people’s conduct, and that especially pertains to those in government, but as enforcement becomes intertwined with other governmental agencies, the enforcement over governmental actions can become lax, and the adherence to the laws that govern the government’s action gradually ends, even though the laws may still remain on the books.
Such has become the fate of some of the laws intended to control the transactions of local governments. Laws governing governments generally were enacted to assure local residents and state authorities that the local authorities are being financially honest, accountable and with verifiable means to assure continued adherence to those laws. However, when laws which require audits, separation of funds and approved referendums to change a charter ordinance are selectively ignored by local area governments the credibility of that governments is questioned. Local governments ignoring state statutes is a serious problem, that is compounded when those whose responsibility it is to prosecute them do not, but remain silent in the face of obvious violations of those laws.
In the City of Lake Geneva and in the Town of Linn state statutes have been ignored with nothing being done. The problem is even more serious than the laws that have been broken because it sets a pattern that opens the door to ignoring even more laws that are intended to control and restrict the authority of those running our local governments. The laws were enacted, often with penalties to assure compliance, because when they are ignored problems like the $100,000 library theft in the City of Lake Geneva, or the more recent salt scandal, happen all the time. The real depth of the corruption that those issues exposed were covered up, and the blame put on a couple of scapegoats, who got off lightly by keeping silent.
What good are laws that are ignored, unenforced and where violators are not properly prosecuted?
The law requires the City of Lake Geneva to keep all transportation funds and transportation charges against the transportation fund in separate and segregated accounts, but that is not done. When auditors are questioned as to why it is not done, the city says other cities are doing the same thing. That is like saying cheating or theft is OK because others are doing it. For the Town of Linn, there are multiple intertwined State Statutes that appear to be violated in connection with the combined Clerk/Treasurer positions and required audits. Why does the City of Lake Geneva continue to comingle the transportation funds and not segregate them as required by law, and why does the Town of Linn appear to not comply with the State Statutes regarding the Clerk/Treasurer position?
The answer is they don’t have to comply because they know that neither the county nor the state will prosecute them for not following these laws. Why are these laws not enforced? The choice to enforce or to not enforce gives enforcement leverage over those on whom it could be enforced. What happens if one presses hard enough to have one of these laws enforced on government? Perhaps the government will solve the problem by changing the law and non-enforcement loses its influence. New leadership in both Town of Linn and Lake Geneva will certainly help minimize negative impact, but still, the letter of the law must be respected and followed.