Hobart administrator, Kramer, accused of forgery
By Kevin Boneske
HOBART – Village Administrator Aaron Kramer has been charged in Brown County Circuit Court with a misdemeanor count of being party to the crime of forgery after he allegedly directed a clerk last year to forge the name of the sitting municipal judge to remove a substitute judge.
If convicted, Kramer, who has an initial appearance and a plea/sentencing hearing scheduled Sept. 16, could be sentenced to up to nine months in jail and/or fined up to $10,000.
According to the court complaint filed Aug. 19, an outside agency requested the Appleton Police Department to conduct an investigation into allegations of misconduct in office involving Kramer.
He is accused of directing the clerk, identified as “RS” in court records, to remove Carley Windorff as a substitute judge for Ronald VanLanen, then the Hobart/Lawrence municipal judge, without VanLanen’s knowledge or consent.
On Feb. 13, 2020, the complaint states, VanLanen requested Windorff, an attorney, to fill in for him during a medical leave.
He signed an application, which was submitted to the 8th Judicial District for approval.
The complaint further states the application was approved electronically March 2, 2020, by 8th Judicial District Court Administrator Thomas Schappa.
On May 14, 2020, the complaint states, Kramer was aware Windorff, who was temporarily presiding over the Hobart/Lawrence Municipal Court, was also representing a village employee as a private attorney.
It was on that day Kramer allegedly directed the clerk to have Windorff removed as a municipal judge.
In response to Kramer’s directive, the complaint states the clerk drafted an application for municipal judicial assignment requesting Gregg Schreiber be assigned as the municipal judge, without telling VanLanen about the application, on which the clerk forged VanLanen’s signature.
The application was sent May 15, 2020, to the district court administrator, to act on “as soon as possible,” and approved six days later, with Windorff removed and replaced by Schreiber, the complaint states.
Appleton Police Department Sgt. Chue Thao interviewed Schappa, who said he believed the order was properly and legally completed according to statutory requirements, and his office was not involved in the decision to replace Windorff with Schreiber.
When Schappa was contacted by Windorff later in May 2020 inquiring who signed the order to replace her, he said Kramer informed him via email he ordered the replacement, the complaint states.
According to the complaint, Windorff expressed concern with municipal officials unilaterally sidestepping the sitting judge’s authority in ordering her replaced with Schreiber, because that authority has to come from the sitting municipal judge or district court chief judge.
Schappa stated he would have denied the application had he been aware it was forged.
When Thao interviewed Kramer, he initially stated the clerk would have been the one who initiated the application to replace Windorff, and it wouldn’t have come from him.
But when asked who gave the orders to replace Windorff, Kramer allegedly paused and thought about it for 8 seconds and said, “You can say it was a collaborative decision, and can’t point a finger at one person who made the ultimate decision.”
The complaint states Thao was provided with an email from Kramer to Windorff, dated May 26, 2020, which expressed her concerns about where the decision to replace her came from, to which Kramer replied, “The decision came from me.”
When the clerk was interviewed by Thao, she allegedly said she was told by Kramer on May 14, 2020, to initiate the replacement application and not tell VanLanen.
“She said the reason not to renew Judge Windorff’s application was her representing a municipal employee against the village,” the complaint states.
When asked if she would have initiated the application on her own to replace Windorff had Kramer not directed her to do so, she said no.
“She said there would be no reason for her to initiate the application,” the complaint states. “She said she couldn’t say no to Mr. Kramer. She said she was caught in the middle and couldn’t say no.”
Kramer, who is being represented by attorney Stephen Kravit, declined comment at this time.
“There is more to the story than has been reported so far,” Kravit said in an email. “Please keep a fair, neutral attitude until we are able to comment.”
Windorff did not respond when contacted via email and phone for comment for this story.
Schreiber, a Lawrence resident who was a municipal judge in the Village of Howard for about 20 years, was appointed this March as the Hobart/Lawrence municipal judge by the village and town boards following VanLanen’s resignation in February.
Schreiber’s appointment runs until April 2022, when a special election will be held with the winner serving out the remainder of the four-year term ending in April 2024.