MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center is home to the state's worst sexual offenders whose prison terms are up, but who have been declared too dangerous to return to a community. Each year several residents are cleared for supervised release and it's up to the state to find them a place to live, as well as pay their rent.
A state audit released on Thursday, August 22nd shows Wisconsin is over-paying to house sex offenders -- and newly obtained documents say those willing to offer sex offenders a place to stay are being heavily rewarded.
Time after time, documents show, the state turns to Kirk Everson from Fond du Lac -- Wisconsin's most preferred landlord for released sexual criminals. Everson is a lawyer who also owns a compost business.
Rent costs for properties owned by Everson are significantly higher than similar properties right next door.
Everson charges $1,900 rent for a home in Milwaukee, while a neighbor with the same size house pays only $900. The state pays $1,600 a month in rent for Everson's Manitowoc home, while a neighbor with a larger house pays just $650.
In total, Everson makes more than $200,000 a year in rental properties.
The high price of these properties caught the attention of lawmakers, who ordered an audit of the system. The results showed a waste of money by the state.
The audit also showed that the Department of Human Services doesn't have guidelines or make potential landlords compete for tenants. Internal documents obtained exclusively by FOX6 show, not only is there no competition, but Everson is actually receiving help from the state -- finding him homes with the agreement that, when he buys them, he'll get inflated rent in return.
"Perhaps there is a better way for us to negotiate the leases. Perhaps there is a better way for us to negotiate on a case by case basis," said Kevin Moore, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health Services.
Moore says although finding landlords willing to house violent sex offenders is tough, the state is taking the audit's recommendations seriously.
"One of the things that we can do better is to better define how we move or how we interact with vendors, using the procurement process to help us find better opportunities for us to place individuals in the community," said Moore.
Hundreds of pages of emails show examples of the state working with Everson to find, buy, and rent homes at inflated prices.