When Sauk County government's top administrative official was released under suspicious circumstances after less than a year on the job, Baraboo News Republic Reporter Tim Damos wanted to find out why.
His quest for answers exposed the existence of a questionable $135,000 contract buyout, and opened the reporting floodgates to numerous other controversies within county government as sources in and around Sauk County spoke out about their experiences and concerns.
Over the next year, Damos wrote more than 70 stories that garnered widespread attention in and outside his coverage area. The News Republic's Editorial Board penned local editorials about the issues brought to light and the paper published dozens of letters to the editor from concerned readers spurred to action by the reporting.
Through his dogged pursuit of public records and accounts from key sources, Damos told the story of a man who died on property the county had deemed a public health hazard nearly two years before his death.
All the while, he faced strong headwinds from public officials loathe to provide documents and records that could substantiate information provided by sources. He persisted in seeking the information through any channels available and public records requests. A News Republic lawsuit against the county regarding denials of records and redactions remains unresolved.
Damos also wrote a related series of stories exposing serious allegations against a recently-retired county highway commissioner. He revealed that a county law enforcement official who declined to investigate the allegations was a close associate of the highway commissioner.
Damos' reporting has prompted a Wisconsin Department of Justice investigation into the matter.