A prosecutor who sent suggestive text messages to a woman whose boyfriend he was prosecuting faces new scrutiny from the Office of Lawyer Regulation, which cleared him of wrongdoing in March.
The OLR said Friday it is reopening its misconduct investigation into Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz. In addition to the text messages Kratz sent to Stephanie Van Groll, who filed a grievance with the agency, Kratz has been accused of inappropriate behavior by two other women.
Professional ethics attorney Daniel L. Shneidman said it is rare for OLR to re-open an investigation, but well within the rights of the agency.
Beyond the new allegations against Kratz, the initial investigation of the complaint may not have been as thorough as it should have been, said Shneidman, and OLR is looking to “save face” at this point.
In March, OLR sent a letter to Van Groll, who received the text messages from Kratz while her boyfriend was being prosecuted in a domestic violence case. In the letter, the investigator said that while Kratz’s conduct was inappropriate it did not rise to the level of professional misconduct.
Kratz also self-reported the incident to OLR, but Shneidman said if the prosecutor withheld information or lied, that could have prompted the agency to re-open the case
“In addition to everything else, one of the criteria for misconduct is if you fail to cooperate with OLR,” he said. “If he deliberately withheld information he has dug himself a deeper hole than he is already in.”
In a statement issued Friday, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen praised the decision.
“OLR has done the right thing. On Monday, my office asked OLR to revisit their decision concerning the conduct of DA Kratz. Today’s announcement shows that OLR has listened to these concerns and is willing to give the allegations against District Attorney Kratz the attention they deserve.”
Jack Zemlicka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.