George faces federal indictment

matt.nash@marquette.edu

The federal government indicted state Sen. Gary George (D-Milwaukee), who represented the 6th State Senate District — which includes Marquette — until he was recalled for unrelated reasons last month.

“Given the amount of money at stake here and the seriousness of charges, (it is) only prudent for the state to look at the situation and see if any taxpayer money was unlawfully taken and whether that money can be recovered,” said Dan Leistikow, spokesman for Doyle.

According to the indictment, George allegedly took $270,000 from Mark Sostarich, an attorney who represented George during his legal battles surrounding his recall from around Oct. 1, 1997 and Aug. 30, 2003. Sostarich allegedly gave George up to 80 percent of the legal fees paid to him from the Opportunities Industrialization Center of Greater Milwaukee.

The OICGM is a non-profit organization that receives federal grant money. The organization receives some of its federal money for the Wisconsin Works program, a social welfare program.

Sostarich “was doing stuff we didn’t know, and in the normal course, wouldn’t know,” said Richard Porter, executive director of the organization. Porter said Sostarich provided a variety of legal services and is no longer representing the organization.

The indictment also alleges George benefited from a businessman. The indictment does not name the businessman, but his attorney, Tom Brown, has identified him as John P. Bowles, the owner of several businesses dealing with construction and real estate.

Bowles allegedly paid Atlantic Broadcasting Corporation, a television station in the U.S. Virgin Islands, in excess of $140,000 between about March 9, 2001 and July 30, 2002. George controls part of the bank account of the station, the indictment reported.

Bowles was “not charged with a crime nor do I expect him to be,” Brown said. “He has made statements to the federal government. He won’t be making statements to the public.”

Bowles has won several state construction contracts from 2000 until 2003, according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges George “solicited and accepted” Bowles’ payments and intended to reward Bowles with state business.

George is also charged with accepting payments from Sostarich for legal fees paid to Sostarich from the Police Athletic League, a non-profit organization that worked with youth in Milwaukee.

George was a director of the organization’s executive board and later became the chairman. The indictment alleges George urged the board to hire Sostarich and gained $50,000 through payments from him.

“Wisconsin has long been a state with a tradition of good, clean government,” said Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, a non-partisan citizen’s reform advocacy group. Heck said George is one of five state legislators involved in indictments within the past year.

“We’re looking a lot more like our friends to the south of the border in Illinois,” he said.

The legislators Heck referred to are Sen. Chuck Chvala (D-Madison), Assembly Majority Leader Steven Foti (R-Oconomowoc), Rep. Scott Jensen (R-Town of Brookfield) and former Democratic senator of Milwaukee Brian Burke.