In his just-released resolution to expel Rep. Jeff Wood from the state assembly, brave Rep. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) cites an incident from before Wood was elected as contributing to Nass’s belief that he should yanked from public service.
If the legislature is going to open hearings about ‘contempt and disorderly behavior’ as requested by Nass, it might be a good opportunity to clear the air about whether Nass ever returned the thousands he stole from taxpayers when falsifying his statement of mileage ‘ as was previously reported by Bruce Murphy’s Milwaukee World in 2001.
In a piece entitled: ‘How Three Legislators Committed Highway Robbery,’ Murphy laid out in painstaking detail following about how Nass’s official paperwork made the case he was padding the length of his commute ‘ and the legal implications of Nass’s potential misconduct.
That’s a modest overcharge compared to Rep. Steve Naas, (R-Whitewater), who claims his home at W8948 Willis Ray Rd. is 52 miles from the Capitol. MapQuest says it’s actually a trip of 43 miles. Naas, who’s been in the legislature since 1990, claimed a distance of 46 miles in his first term, but since then has consistently bumped it up to 52 miles.
Nass was a little more inventive than Morris-Tatum, claiming he took Highway 59 to get to Madison rather than the more direct route of Highway 12. Naas says the Highway 59 route saves him ten minutes time because he avoids some stop lights and the tractors and farm equipment you run into on Highway 12.
I called the American Automobile Association to discuss these two routes. Mark, at the North Shore office, said, “there’s pretty much one way that makes the most sense. Highway 12 is the most direct route.”
But what about Highway 59? “You wouldn’t go that route. That takes you down toward Janesville.”
Yes, but isn’t it faster, avoiding all that infuriating farm equipment on Highway 12? By this time, Mark was beginning to get an odd tone in his voice, as though he was dealing with one crazy customer. He couldn’t even get the computer to go to Madison via 59, Mark said.
I insisted. So Mark reluctantly put in the name of some other cities along Highway 59 going toward Madison, and got the mileage to the Capitol in this piecemeal fashion.
The results: Highway 59 takes you 98 minutes travel time, versus 53 minutes on Highway 12. The direct route is 45 minutes faster, even with all those damned farmers clogging the roads.
As for the mileage via Highway 59, it adds up to 82 miles, not the 52 miles Naas claims. We were never able to find a route with that amount of mileage.
Nass is apparently just as adverse to holidays as [former Democratic Rep. Johnnie] Morris-Tatum. Last year, he claimed 51 round trips and earned $1,538 for mileage, or $266 more than he would have if he certified the “most usual route” to Madison. In 1999, he claimed 51 round trips again and bilked taxpayers of another $266.
Once again, complete records were not immediately available, but Naas has claimed the 52-mile trip since January 1992, on his Certificate of Mileage forms, suggesting he may have overcharged taxpayers by $2,000 or so.
On the legal front, the piece also noted the ramifications for falsify these kinds of official documents.
The Certificate of Mileage form that legislators sign must be notarized to assure it’s a sworn statement, according to John Scocos, Assembly Chief Clerk. “It someone violates it, it could be a violation of state law. It’s fraud.”
“It doesn’t sound right, does it?” says Roth Judd, executive director of the state Ethics Board. By law he notes, paraphrasing State Statute 19.45, “a state official may not use his position to obtain anything of private value.”
Judd, who emphasizes that the law always depends on the particulars of a case, also pointed to S.S. 946.12, which declares it is a class E felony if a state official “makes an entry into an account or…certificate, report or statement which in a material respect the officer or employer intentionally falsifies.”
The same statute later says it is a felony if a state official “intentionally solicits or accepts for the performance of any service or duty anything of value which the officer or employer knows is greater or less than is fixed by law.”
Next up: The federal tax implications of Nass’s reporting.