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July 2014

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Village of Butler seeks to fire officer charged with misconduct

Butler — Police Chief David Wentlandt says he is ready to take the necessary steps to fire Lt. Brian Pergande, who has been on paid administrative leave for more than a year following a Waukesha County sheriff's department investigation into the Butler Police Department early last year.

Wentlandt said the village board on April 15 agreed to appoint Robert G. Mawdsley, a retired Waukesha County Circuit Court judge, to conduct a hearing into whether the village has sufficient cause to dismiss the Pergande.

Villages that do not have a police commission are required by state law to hire a third party to conduct an impartial disciplinary hearing, according to village officials.

More charges

Wendtlandt said Pergande will face several charges of violating various department policies. He said the internal departmental misconduct allegations will involve more charges than the criminal official misconduct charges that were filed against Pergande by the Waukesha County district attorney's office in March of 2014.

Wentlandt, however, declined to describe the specific incidents of misconduct and the charges that will be pending against Pergande during the hearing conducted by Mawdsley.

Wentlandt said before making that information public, he wants to confer with village labor lawyer Mark Olson, who has been out of town.

Two officers

Pergande is the second officer in the seven-member department this year that Wentlandt has sought to discipline.

Wentlandt imposed a 20-day unpaid suspension earlier this year on Officer Chad Rahn for failing to properly complete and file 150 incidents reports. The union that represents Rahn and three other members of the department is seeking a grievance hearing on the suspension.

Rahn is serving the 20 days over a four-month period rather than during consecutive days because of a shortage of officers in the department, caused partly by Pergande's administrative leave.

Rahn and Pergande have filed a federal law suit against the village and the Waukesha County sheriff's office claiming they were retaliated against, harassed, and their constitutional rights violated, as a result of their lodging complaints against former Police Chief Michael Cosgrove.

It was the complaints by Rahn and Pergande that trigged the sheriff's department investigation into Cosgrove and the village police department.

Pergande was placed on administrative leave by village officials in April of 2013 after the sheriff's office referred to District Attorney Brad Schimel evidence of possible criminal misconduct by Perganade uncovered as part of the sheriff's department's investigation into the police department.

Pergande has collected an estimated nearly $80,000 in salary and benefits for not working for the past year.

During an interview last week, Wentlandt explained to the Sussex Sun why it took village officials so long months to begin disciplinary proceedings against Pergande.

A change in command

Wentlandt said labor attorney Olson had advised village officials that, despite the 300-page sheriff's investigation report, it was necessary for the village to conduct its own investigation of Pergande's conduct. According to state law, the investigation had to be conducted by the police chief, according to Wentlandt.

Wentlandt was not officially appointed police chief until September of 2013, nearly six months after Cosgrove retired in the midst of the sheriff's department investigation.

Wentlandt told The Sun that before he could begin an investigation of Pergande, he had to devote some time to taking over the operations of the department and dealing with other issues related to the sheriff's department investigation.

A preliminary hearing on the criminal misconduct charges against Pergande is scheduled for Thursday, May 8, in Waukesha County Circuit Court.

According to the criminal complaint, Pergande took inappropriate pictures of a woman that he improperly detained at the Butler village police station in 2009. The photographs were discovered in Pergande's computer when it was confiscated by the sheriff's office as part of the investigation of the village police department.

Inappropriate pictures

The district attorney's office is alleging that Pergande and two Milwaukee police officers went to a strip club and arrested a stripper, identified in the criminal complaint as "M.J.," for failure to appear in court on a municipal citation issued in Butler.

Police officers do not usually travel into a different jurisdiction to arrest someone on a warrant for a municipal misdemeanor, according to Schimel.

Pergande took the photos of the woman while he detained her in the village police department and also told her he found evidence of drugs in her possession, although no such evidence was ever filed with the department, according to the criminal complaint.

It is village police department policy that anyone detained by a village police officer should be taken directly to either the Waukesha County Jail or the Waukesha County sheriff's office and not held at the village, according to Schimel.

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