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September 2014

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Butler officer suspended; Village officials won't say why

Village of Butler — Village officials have refused to disclose why they have placed police officer Chad Rahn on 20 days disciplinary suspension without pay.

Village Administrator Kayla Chadwick confirmed the suspension and said Rahn was serving the time off work on selected days rather than during a continuous 20 day period.

Chadwick said the suspension was extended because of a manpower shortage in the police department.

In addition to Rahn 's periodic absences, there is one officer who is on maternity leave, and Lt. Brian Pergande continues on paid administrative leave, according to Chadwick.

Pergande was placed on administrative leave in April of 2013 as a result of an internal investigation of the police department conducted by the Waukesha County Sheriff's Office.

Since then he has received more than $85,000 in salary and benefits. Village officials have claimed that legal obstacles have prevented them from either suspending Pergande without pay or terminating him.

Pergande is scheduled to appear in Waukesha County Circuit Court next week on felony official misconduct charges filed against him last month by Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel.

Schimel said the charges against Pergande, which relate to him taking inappropriate pictures of a women he had in custody in 2009, were the result of an investigation that was separate from the internal investigation conducted by the Sheriff's office during the first four months of 2013.

Rahn was placed on three days suspension as a result of that investigation. Village officials also have not revealed the nature of that suspension, although, according to the sheriff's investigation, there was evidence of several instances of misconduct.

Rahn exposed his penis to other officers in the sheriff's department on several occasions at a firing range. Rahn said the exposure was unintentional.

Rahn also was accused by the sheriff's investigation of improperly using for personal reasons the state and federal law enforcement computer network, which Rahn admitted to, according to the report.

The investigation also cited Rahn for creating "an uncomfortable work environment" including taking photos and recordings at the department to compile evidence of perceived, but unconfirmed, allegations against the department.

Rahn and Pergande have filed a federal law suit against the village and Waukesha County claiming that they were harassed and discriminated against, and their constitutional rights violated, during the sheriff's department investigation which was requested by the village.

The federal law suit also contends that the sheriff's report contained "false and misleading statements" regarding Rahn's and Pergande's conduct and activities while serving in the department.

The Sussex Sun last week requested documents related to Rahn's latest suspension in accordance to Wisconsin's open records law but Chadwick denied the request claiming the village did not publicly discuss employee disciplinary matters.

State law requires documents related to the suspension be made public after the village has completed an investigation of the allegations of misconduct and determined the suspension, according to Robert Dreps, a lawyer who represents the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

The village must inform Rahn of the newpaper's open records request and Rahn is provided by state law with an opportunity to ask a circuit court to block the release of the information, according to Dreps.

After Chadwick was informed of Dreps' opinion on the law, she referred to the matter to Police Chief David Wentlandt, who has not responded to telephone calls from the Sussex Sun or made the documents available.

Three village trustees — Susan and David Hesselgrave and Jeanne Briggs — said that the Village Board has not been briefed by the administrator or the police chief regarding the suspension.

"All we are to them is card board cut outs," Hesselgrave said.

They said the Village Board has not discussed what action — if any — should be taken against a police officer who has been suspended twice within a year.

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