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Decision issued on misconduct allegations tied to City of Horicon/Police and Fire Commission | By Sheriff Dale Schmidt

October 23, 2021 – Dodge Co., WI – In early April of 2021, I received a formal complaint regarding alleged open meeting law violations and allegations of misconduct in a public office surrounding the events leading up to the disbanding of the PFC.

Sheriff Dodge County

This complaint was brought by members of the disbanded PFC.  As a result, a detective was assigned to investigate.  In addition, to have a better understanding in making a decision, time was taken to analyze the PFC laws, the legislative intent behind that law, and the overall purpose for a PFC.

Murphy & Prachthauser

Our investigation revealed no violation of the law could be proven to the necessary legal standard.  However, to be certain, the investigation was forwarded to the Dodge County District Attorney’s Office for a final review and decision.  Managing Attorney Bob Barrington of the Dodge County District Attorney’s Office concurred and a summary of his analysis is included with this press release in that of his no prosecution memo.

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While completing the review of PFC laws and the purpose of a PFC, the mission statements of other city PFCs were studied along with state statutes.  It was found that a common theme for the purpose of a PFC is to have an independent civilian board that works independently of the branches of government to appoint police and fire chiefs, hire and promote employees and review disciplinary actions.  The key phrase here is “independent civilian board”.  Following this review, I determined that it is a matter of public concern that citizens understand not only our investigation but also the implications that our investigation discovered regarding the actions that took place.

The legislature defines in Wisconsin Statute 62.13(12) that the legislative intent of the PFC statute “shall be construed as an enactment of statewide concern for the purpose of providing uniform regulation of police, fire, and combined protective services”.

I believe that the integrity of law enforcement begins with the integrity of a hiring process that ensures the most qualified candidate is always selected, regardless of the rank of the position being recruited.  To do otherwise would be a disservice to the citizens which we serve.  It is evident in our investigation that the Horicon PFC was attempting to implement a fair and impartial process with the intent to hire the most qualified applicant.  Our investigation found no legal issues regarding the actions of the PFC.

 

However, our investigation shows that the lines between the branches of government (Mayor/City Council) and the PFC were blurred and political influences may have diminished the integrity of the process.  It is clear that the mayor and City Council’s motivation was vastly influenced by trying to avoid a lawsuit rather than ensuring that the best selection process was in place.  It is clear that other motivations were likely in play along with an errant belief that the PFC must follow the directions of the mayor.  Additionally, in an interview with a sheriff’s office detective, the mayor stated that after the police chief is hired, the PFC will probably return.

 

Our investigation reveals that the motivation for disbanding the PFC  was likely contrary to the notion of keeping PFC decisions separate from the political body.  It is also clear that the legislative intent in Wisconsin Statute 62.13(12) for maintaining uniform regulation of police services was likely not adhered to.

Finally, I would like to commend Lieutenant Amy Yahnke for her professionalism during this ordeal.  She has been placed in an impossible situation.  I never hold it against anyone for wanting to better themselves and seek advancement opportunities. I sincerely hope she continues to seek that advancement.  If she is the most qualified applicant, I hope that she is rewarded as such.  However, I hope that the city council takes action to ensure that a fair process is completed and the most qualified applicant is chosen regardless if it is Lieutenant Yahnke or another quality candidate.

 

In conclusion, the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office review of this incident is now closed and no further analysis or review of the incident will take place unless new evidence is presented to us.  A copy of the investigative report will be available through an open record request.  The easiest way to make a request is via our website www.dodgecountysheriff.com and click on open records.

Questions may be directed to Sheriff Dale J. Schmidt.

Murphy & Prachthauser

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