Voters elect new district attorney to replace M.I.A. D.A. in Waushara County

Published: Nov. 4, 2020 at 4:03 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Waushara County has a new district attorney coming into office in January.

Voters in that county overwhelmingly chose to put Matthew Leusink in charge of prosecuting criminal cases, ousting Laura Waite, who the governor appointed to that position in April.

In a First Alert Investigation one week ago, we first told you DA Waite hadn’t shown up for work since late June, and no one knew exactly why or where she was.

RELATED: A D.A. goes M.I.A. Where is the Waushara County District Attorney?

Incoming DA Leusink tells us he is focused on keeping the justice system moving.

He will take over as top prosecutor in Waushara County in January.

By phone, the morning after the election, he told us the “DA’s office has been through a lot,” adding that it’s important to get it back to the way it was running before district attorney Steven Anderson left in November of 2019.

In our original investigative report, we discovered Waite had not been seen in the courthouse, handled any cases or arranged to have other prosecutors take them for her since June 26th.

In the meantime, two retired prosecutors stepped in to help.

We also found court records showing a handful of cases Waite had been in charge of were dropped, and assistant DA’s later were able to refile them.

That concerned not only other attorneys, but also law enforcement.

Since our original report aired, we received a transcript of a rare hearing called by Waushara County’s only judge in August, allowing him to appoint the county’s corporation counsel as the managing prosecutor to help the situation.

In that hearing, the judge, clearly upset with the M.I.A. DA, went on the record, saying it left the DA’s office in ‘a virtually impossible situation,’ adding, ‘we don’t have a district attorney in Waushara County even though one, apparently, has the name or title...’

We’ve tried email, phone calls and going to Waite’s home in Waupaca County, seeking answers as to why she hasn’t been at work.

We were only told by the man who answered the door that she was not home.

We’ve heard nothing since, and our open records requests, including questions about whether Waite is still being paid, along with messages seeking comment from Governor Tony Evers, who called Waite ‘capable and level-headed’ when he appointed her in the spring, have all left us still waiting.

We did learn from that court hearing in August that the Department of Administration received communication from Waite the week after the Fourth of July holiday, ‘indicating she needed medical leave... for a minimum of six weeks.’

Welfare checks from law enforcement determined she was okay.

An assistant district attorney says the office was told in mid-September she was in a pain clinic in Minnesota but was told nothing else.

District Attorney-Elect Leusink says he hopes, if there’s a personal issue, she gets the care she needs. In the meantime, he says he’s focused on getting the district attorney’s office to full staff and wants it to ‘move forward.’

We’ll continue to stay on this and pass on any new information we receive, including when our open records requests are fulfilled.

Copyright 2020 WBAY. All rights reserved.