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Thursday

August 2014

21

Police misconduct cost village $165,000

Village of Butler — More than $165,000 in village taxpayers' money has been spent as a result of police misconduct revealed in a 2013 investigative report that village officials have apparently done little or nothing about, according to two village trustees.

According to documents obtained by the Sussex Sun, the village, so far, has spent about $80,000 in legal expenses related to the investigation by the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department.

An additional approximately $85,000, so far, has been spent on salary and benefits paid to Lt. Brian Pergande who has been on paid administrative leave for nearly a year as a result of the investigation.

The estimated $165,000 does not include overtime the village paid to officers who worked additional hours because of Pergande's absence.

Village Administrator Kayla Chadwick said it is difficult to estimate how much of that over time would have occurred regardless of Pergande's paid leave.

In addition, according to Chadwick, state law and the lack of a police chief made it difficult for village officials to promptly respond to the allegations in the report.

Chadwick said three officers have been disciplined as a result of the report and the village may still seek disciplinary action against Pergande

Pergande is facing criminal official misconduct charges. Those charges, however, are not related to misconduct uncovered by the sheriff's investigation and are the results of a separate investigation requested by District Attorney Brad Schimel.

Complaints against chief

The village asked the sheriff's office early last year to investigate complaints against former Police Chief Michael Cosgrove that were lodged by Pergrande and Rahn.

Cosgrove announced his retirement in the midst of the investigation and was replaced by Lt. David Wentlandt,

The so-called "Porn in the Morn" investigation concluded that Cosgrove and most of the officer's in the seven-man department — except Wentlandt — allegedly displayed sexist and racist attitudes and engaged in misconduct.

The allegations included watching pornography on police computers, transmitting semi-nude pictures of women on police electronic equipment, and inappropriate personal use of law enforcement computer network systems.

Village President Richard A. Enssline declared there was "no scandel" in the local police department although the result of the investigation was made public in June of 2013.

A few weeks later village residents packed a Village Board meeting, a majority of them expressing support for the police department despite the findings of the report.

Since then, village officials have done little or nothing about the report, according to Village Trustees David and Susan Hesselgrave, a married couple.

Trustee has questions

David Hesselgrave agreed to an interview with the Sussex Sun last week after the Sun placed numerous telephone calls to the Hesselgraves and other trustees. The Hesselgraves are among five candidates seeking three village trustee seats in the April 1 municipal elections.

Hesselgrave was asked why the Village Board had not considered disciplinary action against the officers cited in the report and allowed Pergande to remain on paid administrative leave for nearly a year.

Hesselgrave said village trustees were often told by Village President Enssline, Village Attorney Paul Alexy, and former Village Administrator Jessie Thyes that they could not discuss the findings of the report.

"They kept everything pretty close to their chests. The village trustees knew nothing," Hesselgrave said.

He said the trustees were not provided a copy of the 300-page report, only a summary of the allegations against each officer.

Hesselgrave said trustees were not informed of conversations that apparently occurred between village officials and District Attorney Brad Schimel regarding the village initiating disciplinary actions against Pergande..

Trying to prevent bias

Chadwick said decisions regarding the village's response to the allegations were made by Village Attorney Paul Alexy, Labor Attorney Mark Olson, former Administrator Jesse Thyes and Village President Enssline.

The group did not confer with the elected village trustees, according to Hesselgrave.

The group decided not to provide trustees with copies of the report so the trustees would not become biased in the event the Village Board had to conduct disciplinary hearings, according to Chadwick.

However, village officials later acknowledged that a paid hearing officer or appointed panel of citizens would conduct the hearing, not the Village Board, according to state law.

Chadwick said the board could not initially proceed against some of the officers cited in the report because there was no village police chief at the time. State law requires any complaints against villages that do not have a police commission must be investigated by the police chief and Cosgrove retired before the report was issued.

Conflicting advice

According to Alexy, the village officials determined that if they began disciplinary proceedings against Pergande it could jeopardize the district attorney's investigation. However, Schimel said that he informed the village they could proceed with disciplinary hearings, if they wished, without interfering with his investigation.

Hesselgrave said Wentlandt has not provided the trustees with any information regarding improvements in the department since the report was issued other than one in-house training session. Wentlandt has not responded to numerous telephone calls from the Sussex Sun.

Hesselgrave said some village trustees have occasionally asked the staff for a report of legal and other expenses related to the investigation.

Chadwick, who as appointed to succeed Thyes two months ago, said she is in the process of the preparing such a report for the Village Board.

She pointed out, however, that trustees can review detailed invoices of the legal fees during the board's twice monthly meetings.

Most of the legal work related to the police department has been done by the law firm of Buelow Vetter Buikema Olso and Vliet, which submitted bills totaling approximately $80,000 since 2012.

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