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Sauk County assistant corporation counsel placed on leave; board faces question of impeding investigation
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Sauk County assistant corporation counsel placed on leave; board faces question of impeding investigation

Sauk Co complaints

Sauk County Assistant Corporation Counsel Jim Witecha has been placed on leave after requesting items about complaints the county has received and potential litigation the county could face be added to the Jan. 21 meeting agenda. The board will hold a special meeting Tuesday Jan. 28 regarding the complaints, after the outside counsel investigating the matters has requested an urgent meeting with the Board. 

Sauk County Assistant Corporation Counsel Jim Witecha was placed on leave following requests for agenda items regarding two personnel complaints for the Jan. 21 meeting agenda, while the county also faces questions of interference in an investigation from its insurance company.

Witecha was placed on leave via email by Corporation Counsel Daniel Olson on Jan. 18 after expressing concerns that items regarding complaints the county received through their ethics and fraud hotline in December were not added to the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting in an email addressing the entire county board.

“It is with significant concern that I write to the collective body of the Sauk County Board of Supervisors today to express worries over the recent actions of individuals affiliated with Sauk County,” Witecha said in the email. “However, I feel it is my duty to advise the board and shield my client, Sauk County, from further, potential liabilities. It was strenuously suggested to (County Chairman Peter) Vedro that certain confidential matters be added to the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting of the Sauk County Board of Supervisors before the deadline for adding such items had passed. I feel that I have, in coordination with other appropriate parties, exhausted all other options in an attempt to add this critical discussion to the agenda.”

In an email response to Witecha, Olson placed him on administrative leave pending an investigation of his conduct. The email did not specify who would be conducting the investigation.

“I have been advised that you have attempted to circumvent a lawful decision by the county board chair to decline your invitation to place two items on the January 21, 2020 county board agenda,” Olson said in the email. “While you may believe that your motives are proper, they are extremely unprofessional and insubordinate. Accordingly, I am immediately placing you on administrative leave pending an investigation of your conduct.”

Both Olson and Witecha declined to comment on the matter.

The county received complaints through its ethics and fraud hotline that its insurance carrier, Wisconsin County Mutual Insurance Corporation, assigned an attorney with Jackson Lewis to investigate, said Alene Kleczek Bolin, the county’s administrative coordinator, in an email addressing the county board and county department heads.

In a letter requesting to meet with the entire county board, Ronald Stadler, the attorney investigating the complaints said since the complaints were filed in December there have been additional internal complaints and threats of litigation, all relating to factual allegations.

In the letter Stadler also said that county staff have not been cooperative in his investigations of original and subsequent complaints, and he requested a meeting with the board to inform and discuss the complaints.

“My attempts to investigate these matters so far have been met with resistance,” Stadler said in his letter. “Because of this, I believe that it is urgent that i meet with you and the County Board to update the Board, provide you with information on these complaints, and obtain the Board’s assistance in making all County employees understand the importance and need to cooperate with my investigation.”

Vedro shared this letter with the county board at Tuesday’s regular board meeting, and said that he would first schedule a meeting with the attorney and the county’s Executive and Legislative Committee.

“At the Executive and Legislative Committee before our meeting, we did discuss and agree to set up a session with attorney Stadler from Jackson Lewis, based on his request to meet with the board,” Vedro said. “Our policies require, or our policies recommend that these be referred to the committee that has oversight.”

This sparked disagreement with other board members, many expressing the letter was asking for a meeting with the entire board, not only the E&L committee.

“First of all E&L did not agree, you simply stated that E&L would handle this matter, and I will point out again, contrary to what you said in E&L, attorney Stadler did not address this letter to E&L, he addressed it to yourself and the full board,” said Supervisor Wally Czuprynko.

Supervisor Tim McCumber also expressed the need for the full board to meet with Stadler to discuss the complaints.

“Last time E&L met, I ended up under investigation, can we put this in front of the full board?” said McCumber. “This is what he asked for, he didn’t say ‘Let’s go to E&L?’ Let’s get this done right.”

Following this discussion, a petition to call a special meeting to meet with Stadler circulated around the room. The petition received 16 signatures, enough for the meeting to be held, according to state statute.

The special meeting will be held at 6 p.m., Jan. 28, and will include closed-session discussions with Stadler regarding complaints and potential litigation the county is facing.

Follow Nicole on Twitter @Nicole_Aimone

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