Monday, November 19, 2007

Esslinger v. Castle: Whoever Wins, We Lose

Paul Esslinger's Press Secretary, Kent Monte, is reporting that the City of Oshkosh will be footing the legal fees for the DOJ investigation of Esslinger by way of the city's insurance plan.

To be honest, the idea of an insurance policy picking up the tab is not one I gave any consideration to originally. I was under the impression that this was going to be an "out of pocket" expense, as it were, for the city. This resolution actually makes a certain degree of sense. After all, bizarre instances such as this are the reason why cities buy insurance policies. In my opinion, this just should render further discussion of the matter moot.

Of course it will not, so it's probably worth stepping back for a minute and looking at the situation with a little perspective.

Esslinger's bill totaled $1715.02. The Council member was being investigated for a class H felony, which carried a possible penalty of up to 6 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. In the grand scheme of things $1700 is small price to pay -- so far as legal tabs are concerned it could actually represent as little as a day's worth of work for an attorney. It's important to note that Esslinger's won't even be the largest legal bill the City of Oshkosh (or its insurer) pays this week. Not by a long shot.

So it's really the accusation of impropriety that's offended the sensibilities of Esslinger's supporters -- and that's understandable. But what has to be remembered here is that the reason the city's insurance is picking up the bill here (at least, apparently) is that Esslinger was acting in an official capacity. Well, so was Bill Castle by asking for an investigation. Presumably he would be entitled to the same protections under the city's insurance policy. Why an insurance company would essentially go after itself in such an instance makes no sense.

For reasons that don't involve Paul Esslinger at all (let me be clear about that) -- I'd like to see the bill audited. I'm afraid I can't say much more about this without delving into what can only be considered rumor and hearsay. I doubt the city will bother doing this, but if the bill becomes public record, as I imagine it will, it could be worth the time of some independent third party -- I don't know, say the local newspaper? -- to do so, if possible.


CJ said...

The bill I'd really like to see itemized and audited is the $23K related to the city council's disciplinary action/Wollangk retirement.

I's like to see how that one breaks down.

Cheryl Hentz said...

Chief, you suggested the itemized bill might eventually become public. Anyone who's interested can see it by going here.