EXCLUSIVE: Franklin mayoral candidate John Nelson violated city ethics code with campaign fundraiser e-mails


I have learned that Franklin Alderman John Nelson has been told by the City Clerk’s  Office that he violated the city’s ethics code and the case is being investigated.  Nelson is running to unseat incumbent Franklin Mayor Steve Olson in April’s general election.

I sent the following questions to Karen Kastenson, Director of Clerk Services/City Clerk for the city of Franklin:

1) Did Franklin alderman John Nelson send invitations to a recent fundraiser of his to city of Franklin employees on city of Franklin e-mails? I believe the fundraiser in question may have been at the Luxe Golf Bays.

2) If so, how many were sent out?

3) Is a copy (copies) of any such e-mails available to be forwarded to me?

Kastenson responded.

To answer your questions below:

  1. Yes an email was sent to City of Franklin employees on their City emails.  Yes, the fundraiser at the Luxe was listed in the email inviting those that received the emails to join.
  2. A search was done of our email server and it found 8 emails.
  3. The emails are all the same.  They were sent out as a group, not individually.  Attached is a copy that I have received.

I did speak with Alderman Nelson regarding the emails to let him know this is a violation.  He did not send them out personally, but a member of his committee did.  I explained that was a violation no matter if he sent it personally or someone from his committee sent it.  I was told it was an inadvertent mistake on the committee person’s part.  They were given the list of people that it went to at the City, and they let me know it would not happen again. 

Thank you for your concerns to this email.  It is being investigated.  Please let me know if you have any additional questions.


Karen Kastenson

Director of Clerk Services/City Clerk

Here is the text of the e-mails. The one Kastenson forwarded to me was sent on January 27, 2023, to retired City Clerk Sandi Wesolowski:

From: John Nelson JohnNelsonforMayor@gmail.com
Sent: Friday, January 27, 2023 2:44 PM
To: Sandi Wesolowski – Retired 12/5/22
Subject: Nelson steps up for Mayor!

John Nelson will be on the April ballot for city of Franklin Mayor!

If you haven’t heard, I will be on the April ballot for Franklin Mayor. I’ve enjoyed representing District 6 for several terms; but, based on my participation and close observation, I believe it’s important that I step up to the Leadership seat.

We must get serious about controlling spending, our growing debt, and the inability to access information or ask financial questions. I know you want a government that works for you, without hidden agendas. I’m passionate about making a difference in transparency, resident respect, and building a positive image for our great City.

I invite you to visit my website and follow my campaign so you can recognize and appreciate where I stand and how strong my
dedication is to you!

Respectfully yours,

~ John R. Nelson



Fundraiser (light appetizers, cash bar)
Jan 31, 5:00 – 8:00 PM
7065 South Ballpark Dr.

Copyright © Paid for by Friends of John R. Nelson
Our mailing address is:
Friends of John R. Nelson
P.O. Box 320131
Franklin, WI 53132

In Franklin’s code of ethics:

Ironically for more than a year Nelson (along with his current campaign treasurer Kristen Wilhelm) clamored for a city ethics code to be formulated. But Nelson never signed on to support the document.

For anyone who thinks this is no big deal guess again. Many people who worked for the WI Legislature had to go to court and some went to prison for doing political work on government time using government resources. News of the scandal broke in 2001.

There’s no other way to put this except that what Nelson and/or his minion(s) pulled was mighty dumb. Nelson brags about his six years as an alderman meaning he should have known better.

And this guy wants to lead the city?


In order for a complaint to be fully addressed, a sworn complaint would need to be filed with the office of the Ethics Commission, and they would review the matter.  However, in speaking with them, their February meeting is full and the next scheduled meeting is not scheduled until June.  It is not likely that they would be able to review the matter before April.

The law prohibiting political solicitation of public officials and employees while on public time was changed in 2016.  It now only prohibits soliciting contributions.  See Wis. Stat. § 11.1207  The Commission does advise campaigns to remove .gov email addresses from their mailing lists to avoid any appearance of impropriety and any possibility of accidentally sending a campaign contribution solicitation to those officials/employees.

5 thoughts on “EXCLUSIVE: Franklin mayoral candidate John Nelson violated city ethics code with campaign fundraiser e-mails

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