(Originally published Oct. 26, 2021)By Erin Hassanzadeh

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The leader of a Wisconsin village is in hot water, accused of messing with the meter on his home, and possibly costing the community thousands of dollars.

Many take pride in a pristine lawn, especially after a dry summer. But the lawn belonging to the Somerset Wisconsin Village President Shawn Weisen is now at the center of a criminal case.

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“I can’t believe anybody would do that,” said Tama Schmidt of New Richmond.

The alleged crime? Stealing water while everyone else was trying to conserve it.

“I mean, how dumb do you have to be to think you’re not gonna get caught for something like that?” said Cody Fitzpatrick of Osceola.

WCCO couldn’t get a hold of Weisen Tuesday. The criminal complaint against him lays out things like negative water usage readings, which triggered the investigation earlier this summer.

After a closer look, the city’s public works director concluded that he believed the meter was most likely removed and reinstalled backwards. Further tests of Weisen’s meter showed it was working just fine and had likely been tampered with.

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“The thought that comes to mind is Danny DeVito’s character in ‘Matilda’ with the used cars, and he would run the drill backwards to get the odometer to, you know, read lower mileage than it was,” said Fitzpatrick.

According to the city’s public works director, the estimated water meter fraud was around $10,000.

“Where’s it going? What’s he doing with it?” said Schmidt.

Weisen is charged with six counts of misdemeanor fraud for allegedly bypassing utility meters. They date back to last summer, and were as recent as this August.

Each count carries a fine of up to $500 and/or 30 days in prison — though some say that’s not enough.

“No, he should not keep his position,” said Schmidt. “You’re there to help and serve the community, not steal from it.”

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The attorney for the Village of Somerset tells us Weisen was elected in the spring and won’t be removed from his position unless he voluntarily resigns or is removed by the village board. He is due back in court in December.

Erin Hassanzadeh