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Whitewater attorney selected city judge

---Ex-judge had wanted old job back

(Published August 8, 2007, 3:59 p.m.)

The city of Whitewater appointed a new municipal judge Tuesday night and, despite his efforts, former judge Steven Spear wasn't selected.

The council chose Whitewater-based attorney Richard C. Kelly 5-2 over Ben Penwell, another city attorney.

Spear resigned July 17 as part of a plea agreement to a civil disorderly conduct charge. He allegedly tried to forcibly kiss a former secretary inside his law office and then apparently masturbated in front of her.

He pleaded no contest, was fined $438 and resigned. The charge was reduced from a misdemeanor.

There were 11 applicants for the position. Kelly and Penwell were nominated after the council reviewed the applications in closed session.

Spear was not nominated.

The council was unanimous in that decision, said Alderwoman Marilyn Kienbaum, council president.

"I just didn't think it was the right time," Kniebaum said regarding Spear attempting to succeed himself.

"Everyone felt the same way, that this was the way it needed to be," she added.

Spear plans to run again in the spring, Kniebaum said he told her.

"Maybe he'll get elected. Who knows," she said. "He's been a good judge; no question about that. But then this dumb thing happens. I have a kid who says, 'When you play, you pay.'"

Special prosecutor Kenosha County Deputy District Attorney Richard Ginkowski said it was his primary goal to get Spear off the bench. He couldn't press further charges because Spear never exposed himself to the woman, nor did he touch her sexually.

"He navigated himself around those waters very artfully," Ginkowski said earlier. "We spent many hours trying to see if we could come up with more serious charges, but the facts just didn't fit."

He offered one comment when he learned of Spear attempting to get back on the bench.

"This guy is a real piece of work," he said.

Spear did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Kelly, 65, has lived in Whitewater since 1974.

"I thought it was an important job, and I thought that with 40 years legal experience, that it's a job that I have the background experience to do and to do it well," Kelly said.

He intends to run in April when his interim appointment expires.

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