A former Woodmohr town board member charged in tree-cutting scam

A former Woodmohr town board member has been charged with improperly cutting down trees in the town and profiting from selling the timber.

John Seibel was charged in Chippewa County Court with two counts of misconduct in office, which is a felony, and one count of misdemeanor theft-party to a crime.

In the spring of 2017, an investigator in the Chippewa County sheriff’s office was contacted by multiple homeowners in the town of Woodmohr.

According to a criminal complaint, Seibel, who was then on the council at the time, was overheard “bragging in the tavern they could get people all the firewood they wanted and they were cutting township trees for profit.”

Investigators visited several properties in the town and tallied at least 185 healthy oak trees were removed. Homeowners complained that Seibel and another man were cutting down mature healthy oak trees while leaving others behind.

The investigator determined that Seibel had been “selectively cutting” trees and found no mention of removing unsafe trees while reviewing several town board meeting minutes.

In 2017 the town board voted to pay Seibel to use his personal skid steer to remove trees. In February 2017, the town paid him $4,046 and in March Seibel was paid $9,685.

A forest ranger examined the area and determined that Seibel had harvested 3000 board feet of red Oak and 1000 board feet of red maple from properties. Officers took pictures of the stumps and saw at least 10 trees that were removed outside of the right of way, meaning they were on private property.

The Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department first announced its investigation into the tree removal in a 35-page report that was released in July 2018. Other town officials were also under investigation, but no other charges are expected at this time.