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FORMER SUPERIOR CITY FIRE CHIEF SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR FELONY THEFT AND MISCONDUCT IN OFFICE

 

Gotelaere Also Ordered To Pay Full Restitution Of $239,676 To Return Amounts Embezzled

 

MADISON - Former city of Superior Fire Chief Stephen A. Gotelaere, 61, will be going to prison on charges of two counts of felony theft and one count of misconduct in public office for embezzling $239,676 from the city's hazardous materials fund, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced today. Gotelaere was sentenced today in Douglas County Circuit Court. For each count, Gotelaere received a prison sentence and extended supervision to be served concurrently. Gotelaere will serve 2 years in prison followed by 6 years extended supervision. Among other conditions, Gotelaere was ordered to pay full restitution in the amount of $239,676.

 

Gotelaere entered guilty pleas to the three felonies at his court appearance on December 19, 2007, before Circuit Judge Michael T. Lucci, who presided over today's sentencing.

 

Pursuant to a plea agreement with Gotelaere, the state recommended that Gotelaere serve four years in prison followed by five years of extended supervision and an additional five years of probation.

 

An additional count of misconduct in public office regarding a false travel voucher and false mileage reimbursement claims that Gotelaere submitted while fire chief was read in for the court's consideration in sentencing.

 

Representatives from Superior's city government, including Mayor Dave Ross and current Fire Chief Tad Matheson made presentations describing the impact of Gotelaere's crimes on local government and its citizens. Additionally, Judge Lucci received written statements from several other city officials and employees, including a joint statement from Fire Chief Matheson and Firefighter Union President Thomas Lesage and a statement from Police Chief Floyd Peters.

 

According to the criminal complaint, beginning in 1999, Roger Otto, owner of the fire equipment firm Eddy Brothers Co., conspired with Gotelaere to submit invoices containing charges for equipment and supplies that in fact were never ordered or delivered. The complaint alleges that Otto prepared invoices that included both legitimate and false charges and that Gotelaere would tell Otto what to put in the invoices and how much Gotelaere would get back. As fire chief, Gotelaere was responsible for reviewing and approving fire department invoices for payment. After the city issued checks in payment for these false charges, the complaint further alleges, Gotelaere and Otto would meet to divide the proceeds, with Gotelaere receiving most of the funds.

 

Taxpayers have every right to expect that tax dollars paid for public safety go to their intended purpose, Van Hollen said. The Department of Justice will vigorously prosecute criminal violations of this nature and seek to make taxpayers whole through restitution.

 

The case was investigated by agents of the Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation and was prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Paul Barnett and Barbara Oswald as special prosecutors for Barron County.