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September 2014

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Butler Police Officer Brian Pergande to face misconduct hearing in July

Butler — A disciplinary hearing to determine whether a wide range of charges involving neglect of duty and misconduct against Lt. Brian Pergande are sufficient "just cause" to have him fired from the village police department has been scheduled for late July.

Pergande faces multiple charges of neglect of duty, unbecoming conduct, immoral conduct, unsatisfactory performance, abuse of power and position, and failure to abide by numerous department policies, as outlined in an 11-page document prepared by Police Chief David Wentlandt.

The document describes five incidents of misconduct that resulted in charges against Pergande.

Three of the incidents were previously described in the Waukesha County Sheriff's investigative report of the Butler Village Police Department that was issued in June of 2013.

The village board requested the investigation after receiving complaints of misconduct by former Chief Michael Cosgrove from Pergande and fellow officer Chad Rahn.

A fourth incident is being made public for the first time, although it could have been included in materials in the investigation report that were redacted from the public.

The other incident has been made public through criminal charges pending against Pergande.

Officers' lawsuit

Pergande and Rahn have filed a federal law suit claiming they have been discriminated against, harassed, and their federal and state constitutional rights violated, by the village and the Waukesha County Sheriff's department.

Rahn is serving a 15-day suspension on misconduct charges unrelated to the sheriff's investigation.

Robert G. Mawdsley, the retired Waukesha County Circuit Court judge who will determine whether there is enough reason to fire Pergande, tentatively set July 30 and July 31 as the dates for the hearing with the possibility of an additional day scheduled for August.

Pergande's attorney, Michael J. Steinle, said during a scheduling conference with Mawdsley and village attorneys last week that a third day may not be needed.

"I do not intend to try issues that are not relevant," he said, adding that additional time may be saved because he may use some of the witnesses scheduled to testify against Pergande also as witnesses in his defense.

Village Administrator Kayla Chadwick has predicted there may be about 10 witnesses called to testify against Pergande, although the list of possible witnesses has not yet been made public.

In villages that do not have a police commission, state law requires the village board appoint a hearing officer to hear charges filed against a police officer by the chief of the department. The hearing officer determines whether those charges are "just cause" to have the officer fired.

Mawdsely plans to meet again with Steinle and Nancy Pirkey, the village labor lawyer who represents Wentlandt, on July 10 to finalize the dates of the hearing.

Meanwhile, the two lawyers will exchange lists of witnesses and other evidential documents in preparation for the hearing expected to go three days.

"It is a good schedule. It is a timely schedule for getting this matter taken care of," said Mawdsley

Costs of the proceeding

With the combined legal fees paid to the Village Attorney Paul Alexy, Pirkey's labor law firm, and Mawdsley's fees, the hearings are costing village taxpayers about $750 an hour which does not include costs related to a court stenographer or staff time devoted to the hearings.

Police misconduct revealed by the Waukesha County Sheriff's office has cost village taxpayers in excess of $175,000 during the past year in lawyers fees and salary and benefits paid to Pergande while he has remained on paid administrative leave for more than a year.

Village officials have asserted they had to wait until Wentlandt was appointed police chief in September of 2013 and he could conduct an investigation of Pergande's alleged misconduct before they could seek to have Pergande dismissed from the force.

The newest incident of alleged misconduct occurred in November of 2012 when Pergande tried to intervene on behalf of a former girlfriend with Wauwatosa police officers who were in the process of arresting her for driving under the influence.

Pergande contacted a Wauwatosa police desk officer, identified himself as a Butler police office, and asked to talk to the arresting officer.

Pergande allegedly asked the desk officer if there "anything he could do" for the former girlfriend, such as being allowed to pick her up and take her home without her being arrested, according to the charges.

Pergande allegedly tried to use his influence as a police officer in another incident in December of 2012 when he asked the West Allis Police Department to go to the home of his ex-wife who was allegedly engaged in sexual activity with a boyfriend.

Left village unguarded

During the incident, Pergande who was supposed to be on duty in Butler, left the village without police protection for about an hour and half, according to the charges. Some elements of the incident were included in the sheriff's investigation report.

Pergande also faces misconduct charges related to his personal use of the state and federal police network. According to the charges lodged by Chief Wentlandt, Pergande used the network to ascertain the criminal background and driving record of his ex wife's boyfriend as well as checking any criminal background on himself and his daughter.

Pergande also is accused of using his cell phone to transmit a bare breasted picture of a female employee of a local tavern to his village email account so he could show the photos to former Police Chief Michael Cosgrove, who retired in the midst of the county sheriff's investigation.

In his report of charges, Wentland concludes that Pergande can no longer serve as effective law enforcement officer in the village because the Waukesha County district attorney's office has deemed him an unreliable witness in court because of the results of the sheriff's investigation of the police department and the criminal charges pending against Pergande.

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