Board reviews police department findings
By John Faucher
Hortonville Village board members reviewed an investigation conducted by Black Creek police into alleged missing personnel files from the Hortonville Police Department.
The investigation began at the request of former Hortonville Police Chief Michael Sullivan, who resigned on May 4, after accepting a position with the Wrightstown Police Department.
Sullivan served as Hortonville’s chief since 2003.
On May 9, Village Administrator Diane Wessel told the Press Star that Sullivan initiated the investigation into alleged missing personnel files during his tenure as chief of police.
Wessel also confirmed that, “The Village of Black Creek Police Department has been conducting this investigation. While the village board is unaware of any wrongdoing, the trustees have requested that the pending investigation be transferred to DCI to allow for an independent review of the allegations.”
Since then, attorney James Macy, hired by the village, met with Outagamie County officials to discuss the possibility of the sheriff’s department conducting its own investigation.
At the village board meeting Thursday, June 1, Wessel explained a memo she drafted for board members that responded to five points made in a cover letter of the Black Creek investigation report.
The report indicated five policy and procedure points Black Creek investigators felt needed revision within the Hortonville Police Department.
The report noted a lack of a visitor’s log for visitors who enter the secure area within the department. The cover letter stated that this is a requirement by the Department of Justice.
Wessel said that she corresponded with Walt Neverman, director of the Crime Information Bureau of the DOJ and learned the DOJ removed the visitor log requirement in August 2013.
“Therefore, the village is in compliance with DOJ requirements,” said Wessel.
Black Creek also found that Hortonville lacked a policy requiring unescorted civilian employees entering the secure area of the police department to have completed the DOJ security awareness training.
“There is no indication that current civilian employees have completed this training,” the report said.
Wessel said that under the Criminal Justice Information Services Security Policy, the agency shall control physical access by authenticating visitors before authorizing escorted access to the physically secure location, except for those areas designated as publicly accessible.
Wessel reported to the board that in April 2016, the Department of Public Works implemented a policy establishing cleaning staff work hours during open business hours and when a supervisor is present.
Wessel said cleaning staff for the police department were notified the policy applied within the police department in January 2017.
“Michael Sullivan implemented an additional visitor access control policy on April 21, 2017. Therefore, the village of Hortonville is in compliance with this requirement,” said Wessel.
A third area of concern noted in the Black Creek investigative report indicated that Hortonville did not have a policy covering the security and confidentiality requirements of the police department personnel files.
Wessel said the files are secure, but that was something the village was still working on.
“Consolidating and coordinating all village personnel files in one location for security and confidentiality purposes had been discussed with legal counsel and is in progress with additional assistance from Cottingham and Butler [consulting firm],” she said. “This item has been discussed with the village board.”
The Black Creek investigation report also indicated there is minimal accountability of keys issued for the building.
“That is something that we do need to do, is establish a log of keys that have been issued,” said Wessel. She also noted keypad PINs are changed when employees with keypad access leave village employment.
Wessel also clarified some areas of the report she felt needed explanation because investigators may have received incorrect or misunderstood information provided to them.
Some board members and staff expressed frustration because initially they were unsure if the investigation was internal or criminal.
Village attorney Robert Sorenson said, “If we want a study on personnel or facilities, it should not be done under the guise of a criminal investigation.”
Sorensen suggested the board discuss the five recommendations offered and move forward.
Board trustee Jack Kuhnke said, “I agree we need to move forward but we also need to be told upfront.
“I don’t like getting blindsided by anything. Personally, I feel like that’s the way some of us were treated. We weren’t getting told the whole story from the start,” Kuhnke said.
He noted that in other instances, including the Sullivan case, board members were not being told everything up front.
“I like to hear all sides of the story,” said Kuhnke.
Sorensen told him that was because there was an ongoing investigation.
Board members did not take any further action in regards to the Black Creek investigation.