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July 2014

25

Second investigation launched in Ashippun over missing funds

Lions Club suspects same man for theft from account

Town of Ashippun - Jim Schlieve, who church authorities said took around $200,000 from Zion Lutheran Church, is now being investigated for between $5,000 and $10,000 missing from the Ashippun Lions Club. Dodge County Sheriff Todd Nehls said the department has met with the Lions and launched an investigation.

Lions Club member Jim Franke contacted the Focus after reading about the missing church funds. He said the Lions Club is also a victim and wants people to know about it. Franke said Schlieve recently wrote a letter to the club resigning and saying he plans to pay back the money from his 401(k).

No charges have been issued against Schlieve in either matter.

Schlieve declined to comment. His lawyer, Bill Gergen of Gergen Gergen & Pretto of Beaver Dam, said Schlieve is fully cooperating with police and will cooperate with the district attorney.

"Jim's primary goal is to make full restitution to both parties," Gergen said.

Franke said the Lions Club met Jan. 21. Schlieve, who was the club treasurer, was not at the meeting, although he sent a financial report indicating the club had $6,499 in its account. But the bank indicated the account balance is only about $60, Franke said.

Last week, the church issued a news release connecting Schlieve with the missing funds. According to the church, Schlieve's statement said he acknowledged taking the money.

Franke said he became suspicious of Schlieve taking money from the club, "because I knew what my wife knew (as a member of the church council)." He added that his wife could not talk publicly about the missing money until a Jan. 28 church meeting. "So I didn't say anything and waited until the following Tuesday. Then I called the club president and told him he might want to check the bank account," said Franke.

"He was the only one who had control of the checkbook," said Franke.

He said the club is able to see some evidence through checks that money that was supposed to be going to different organizations - including the Ashippun Food Pantry - had not.

Franke said they found checks written from the Lions Club account to the church endowment fund.

He said the club has "bonded together" after learning of the news, and each member of the 31-member club has been assessed $50 to "get the bank account back in the black."

Franke is worried about whether the club will be able to continue upcoming charitable efforts in the community. He said the club annually gives about six $500 scholarships to students.

"We have events coming up, and we're hoping the community comes out to support us. We need to reboot," said Franke. He added that the club is insured.

Franke said he has known Jim Schlieve for about 30 years. "He's a very good friend. This is just completely unbelievable," Franke said.

Schlieve is employed by Engine Power in Oconomowoc, where he works in customer service. The owner of the company said Schlieve has been suspended.

Franke is also a member of Zion Lutheran Church. He said that although the Rev. Bob Thays said that some have asked about clemency for Schlieve, that's not the entire picture.

"This isn't just taking a few dollars or a couple sodas from the church. It's hard for people to believe, but this is a serious amount of money," Franke said. The church held its annual meeting Sunday, when Franke said everyone would get to have their say.

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