Milwaukee Ald. and Dem U.S. Senate candidate Chantia Lewis was charged Tuesday with five counts, including theft, misconduct in public office and violating campaign finance laws.
The four felonies and one misdemeanor stem from allegations Lewis used her campaign finance account to cover personal expenses, put political donations into her personal checking account and improperly sought reimbursement from the city for travel she covered with campaign funds.
She faces charges of misconduct in office, theft and embezzlement for the misuse of $21,667 in campaign and city funds.
Lewis, who announced this summer her intention to run for U.S. Senate, said in a statement that she has fully cooperated with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office after being notified of “potential campaign reporting errors.”
“We will make the necessary corrections. But make no mistake, I am innocent of any
criminal wrongdoing,” Lewis said.
She is scheduled to make her first court appearance on the charges Sept. 29.
According to the criminal complaint, Lewis filed for and received travel expense reimbursement from Milwaukee after taking several trips she paid for using funds from her campaign. Those trips date back to November 2016.
She also allegedly deposited into her personal checking account $2,725 in funds from checks that were originally intended by donors to be deposited into her campaign account. Those deposits date back to April of 2018.
The complaint also alleges Lewis used $3,291 of her campaign funds to pay for travel expenses. The city reimbursed her for $2,250 of those expenses, according to the complaint.
Lewis, who was first elected to the Common Council in spring 2016, was reelected last year to another four-year term. A month after the April 2020 election, the Milwaukee County DA’s office initiated a review of campaign finance reports and city-approved travel reimbursements for different members of the Common Council to see if there were any improprieties. The criminal complaint didn’t detail the other members of the council whose reports were reviewed.
According to the complaint, Lewis improperly used funds to pay for family trips to the Wisconsin Dells and Georgia. She also “double-dipped,” according to the complaint when she had her campaign reimburse lodging expenses for a trip to Las Vegas. She received reimbursement from Milwaukee for those Las Vegas travel expenses too.
In all, she improperly took $21,667 from her campaign and Milwaukee, according to the complaint, and $13,401 of that money was used for personal expenses.
The complaint also alleges he used some of that money for expenses such as car repairs, an apartment and a car loan.
Common Council President Cavalier Johnson announced he is relieving Lewis of all committee duties.
“Make no mistake that our judicial system presumes that every individual is considered innocent until proven guilty in court,” Johnson said. “However, until this matter is resolved, I am moving without hesitation to protect the institution of the Milwaukee Common Council, as well as the City of Milwaukee.”
See the criminal complaint here.
See the Lewis campaign response here.