BARABOO — In response to a Baraboo News Republic article, Sauk County Sheriff Chip Meister has asked the Wisconsin Department of Justice to review criminal allegations against the county’s former highway commissioner.
Meister made the announcement on the sheriff’s department Facebook page Tuesday morning.
In June, Meister determined that criminal allegations against former Sauk County Highway Commissioner Steve Muchow were not worthy of law enforcement investigation.
The News Republic published a story Tuesday disclosing that Meister and Muchow are members of a group that meets socially for breakfast each month. The story provided a firsthand account of the two men dining together at a restaurant Friday morning, and included a photo of Meister leaving the restaurant.
Two attorneys with expertise in criminal law who were quoted in the story said they disagreed with Meister’s determination that the allegations were not worthy of criminal investigation.
They also said Meister should have recused himself from the matter and forwarded it to an outside agency for review.
“In response to the Tim Damos news piece, the Sauk County Sheriff’s Office has reached out to the (Division) of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to conduct an independent review of our findings,” Meister wrote Tuesday morning in a Facebook post that also provided a link to the story.
The announcement and link were also shared on the department’s website.
“I honor the duties and responsibility of this agency to the citizens of Sauk County, above all else. To insure (sic) full transparency, once the independent review is complete, findings will be made available.”
The Division of Criminal Investigation is an agency within the Wisconsin Department of Justice. DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos confirmed in an email Tuesday that the agency had received Meister’s request.
“Sheriff Meister felt strongly about having DOJ review these allegations and we will be taking the appropriate steps to address the Sheriff’s request,” he said.
Meister met with his oversight panel, the Sauk County Board’s Law Enforcement Committee, late Tuesday afternoon. The DOJ referral was not discussed.
County highway employees alleged their boss had misrepresented financial information, manipulated bids, used county resources for personal reasons, misused county business relationships, falsified timecards and mistreated employees.
Muchow gave notice of his intention to retire in late April, prompting county officials to drop a personnel probe into the matter.
He has denied any wrongdoing, and said he was not aware of the investigation when he decided to retire.
On June 12, Administrative Coordinator Alene Kleczek Bolin asked Meister to review the allegations for potential criminality.
Four days later, Meister wrote back that he and his chief deputy had reviewed the allegations and determined that only two of them constituted potential criminality.
However, they determined that evidence gathered during the personnel investigation was insufficient to prove the allegations, so no law enforcement probe was necessary.