Sunday, March 11, 2007

Troha-Jambois Connection

There was an article in yesterday's Kenosha News written by Joe Potente. The article was choked full of well researched details about the Troha and Jambois connections.

Since I cannot link to it- I have posted the entire article.

DOT-Troha ties under microscope
Agency connections to case continue to generate debate

Top Wisconsin Department of Transportation attorney Robert Jambois on Friday deflected criticism of his own connections to indicted Kenosha businessman Dennis Troha.

Jambois also continued to defend the DOT’s actions in motor fuel tax disputes involving trucking companies once controlled by Troha, a top fi - nancial contributor to Gov. Jim Doyle who was indicted last week for facilitating allegedly illegal donations to the governor.

According to campaign fi - nance reports reviewed by the News, Troha was also a major contributor to Jambois’ unsuccessful 2005 bid for a Kenosha County Circuit Court judgeship. The records indicate Troha, family members and business associates donated more than 30 percent of what Jambois raised during the entire campaign at a Jan. 24, 2005 fund-raiser Troha hosted at his Kenosha office.

The fund-raiser generated $2,500 for Jambois from Troha family members alone, each of whom donated $250. Troha company employees contributed another $1,700, while Dairyland Greyhound Park and Menominee Nation offi cials contributed $1,150. Until he withdrew from it last month, Troha was the local developer in the tribe’s effort to build an $808 million casino at Dairyland.

The total of $5,350 raised from Troha family members, business associates and casino interests was about 32 percent of Jambois’ fi nal fund-raising tally of $16,738. The limit for in- dividual donations in a circuit court judge’s race is $1,000.

Troha and Jambois are also linked by Jambois’ wife, Bev, who was paid nearly $1,700 per week to run Troha’s pro-Kenosha-casino referendum campaign from late August 2004 at least through the November election.

The fuel tax controversy erupted earlier this week in the wake of Troha’s indictment. Troha is charged with fraud and lying to the FBI in connection to an alleged scheme in which he used a business entity to illegally funnel cash to family members who in turn donated the money to Doyle and, perhaps, other politicians. Troha’s attorney has said he believes Troha will be found innocent.

At issue now is whether the DOT acted out of the ordinary in using a staff attorney to help negotiate Interstate Fuel Tax Agreement settlements between trucking fi rms Troha formerly owned and fi ve other states. At one point, Troha was said to owe a total of roughly $1 million to the states of Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and Pennsylvania.

While Jambois steadfastly maintains that the department acted appropriately, critics say the state’s involvement is unusual and suggest that state officials might have been influenced by Troha’s contributions to the governor and relationship with Jambois and his wife.

A leading legislative Republican said Friday that the fundraising link and other connections undermine Jambois’ credibility as a spokesman for the DOT and its secretary, Frank Busalacchi, who have come under fire in recent days for their handling of the Troha company-related tax cases.

“It’s almost comical at this point that this would be the guy that you would put out in front of the media, with so many direct ties, political ties, to the Troha family,” said state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau.

But Jambois said he does not believe his history with Troha compromises his position and contends he has no current or past conflicts of interest with Troha.

A former longtime Kenosha County district attorney, Jambois lost the April 2005 judge’s race to Anthony Milisauskas and was named general counsel of the DOT in August 2005.

Jambois noted that when his judicial campaign received the Troha family donations in January 2005, Troha had no cases pending before the Kenosha County Circuit Court.

When he joined the DOT later that year, Jambois said, he was not informed of Troha’s tax cases. By July 2006, Troha had pulled entirely out of the trucking business and Jambois said he remained unaware of the tax cases until last week when the news media began looking into the issue as an offshoot of Troha’s federal indictment. The FBI has since questioned DOT offi cials about the situation.

“I now would have no confl ict of interest, if in fact I was involved in these cases,” Jambois said, adding that he has only been responsible for reviewing how other DOT staff members handled the cases.

Jambois also downplayed his wife’s work for Troha’s 2004 referendum group, JOBS for Kenosha. Jambois said Troha approached Bev Jambois to lead that group because she was a renowned community organizer, known for her successful advocacy for Kenosha’s smoke-free dining ordinance.

“She agreed to do that because she supported the idea of a casino for Kenosha, and so did I,” Jambois said.

But Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, said Jambois’ connections to Troha further exemplify the close ties Doyle administration offi cials have to the Troha family and its associates.

“These are very obvious conflicts of interest,” McCabe said. “And this administration is showing itself to be absolutely insensitive to conflicts of interest.”

Meanwhile, at a late-morning news conference in Madison Friday, Jambois asserted that no one from Doyle’s offi ce contacted the DOT seeking special favors for Troha.

A spokesman for another state that negotiated a tax settlement with Troha’s former firms told the News on Friday that Wisconsin’s involvement in the talks was not unusual because Wisconsin is the collection agent in the case. But Tom Jacobs of the Nevada Department of Transportation added Nevada officials were surprised Wisconsin acted more like an advocate for the trucking company than Nevada would have had it been involved in a similar case involving a Nevadabased fi rm.

“That was unusual,” Jacobs said. “All we can do is speak for Nevada, and we thought it was unusual.”

Jambois disagrees. He said all Wisconsin did was put the affected states and the trucking companies in the same room. He said the state’s responsibility is to make sure all sides are treated fairly.

“We’re not here to resolve this for the trucking company,” Jambois said. “We’re here to collect, to receive delinquent taxes. That’s what we’re here to do.”

— Kenosha News reporter Deneen Smith contributed to this report.

Also is Saturday's Kenosha News was a timeline connecting all of the dots between Troha and Jambois.

I am working on adding to the Kenosha New's timeline including the campaign donations given to Governor Jim Doyle.

I will post it later this week.

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