Former Onalaska city employee makes plea in felony theft case

The former Onalaska city employee accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the city plead guilty Friday in La Crosse Co. Court as part of a plea agreement.

Prosecutors say 48-year-old Kari Neumann pocketed more than $70,000 between 2012 and 2016, when she worked as an employee for the city.

According to the criminal complaint, Neumann admitted to stealing the money when citizens would pay parking tickets and other citations in cash. She says she would write “paid” on the tickets in question, before destroying the envelopes and keeping the money.

Neumann says she took the money because she needed it to help pay for her husband’s health problems and initially intended to pay the money back. However, she says she eventually lost track of how much money she took and never paid any of it back.

The missing money was discovered after the city conducted an internal audit. Neumann’s case forced the city of Onalaska to change the way it handles the payment of tickets and fines.

Previously, cash was flowing into multiple departments in the city, depending on what the payments were for. That created a lack of oversight, with only one person in a department being involved in those transactions.

Now, all payments are made through the city’s finance department, with multiple people keeping an eye on the money coming in.

Neumann faces 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

No sentencing date has been set.