Chippewa County Board Supervisor issues statement regarding Sheriff investigation

CHIPPEWA COUNTY, Wis. (WEAU) – A Chippewa County Board Supervisor is taking issue with Sheriff Travis Hakes’ claim that political motivation is behind the investigation against him.

Rob Teuteberg represents Lake Hallie on the County Board and is a former Chippewa Falls Police Officer.

In a Facebook post, Teuteberg says “Sheriff Hakes has chosen to cloud the issue of his malfeasance with false claims of political motivation. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Teuteberg has previously called for Hakes to resign, and did so again with this post.

I make this statement solely as the duly elected Chippewa County Supervisor for District 14. This statement does not represent the opinion(s) of the Chippewa County Board of Supervisors, the Chippewa County administration, nor any employees of Chippewa County.

While I would much rather prefer not to litigate this matter in the court of public opinion, Travis C Hakes’ personal and salacious attacks against the Chippewa County Board of Supervisors, the administration, and me personally must be addressed so that the people of Chippewa County have a clear understanding of the facts of this matter.

This was not a criminal investigation. At no point has the Chippewa County Board of Supervisors accused Sheriff Hakes of a crime. Just as we all do, Sheriff Hakes benefits from the presumption of innocence and the information developed over the course of this investigation was referred the to Chippewa County District Attorney for review. The District Attorney alone has the final say as to whether or not his actions rise to the level of criminality. Even if that were to happen, Sheriff Hakes has the due process right to content this matter in criminal court by judge or jury.

This was an internal policy violation investigation. In these matters, should a complaint of this nature be brought to the administration, the employer is legally-bound to take action. There is no formal document presented to the person who is the focus of the complaint. There is no right to confront one’s accuser. There is no right to an attorney.

Furthermore, allegations of internal policy violations are generally addressed by the administration and not the county board as a whole. However, being that these allegations were made against an elected official and the highest ranking law enforcement officer in Chippewa County, the correct decision was made by the County Administrator to seek the guidance of the Chippewa County Board of Supervisors.

As a former administrator and Chief of Police, Sheriff Hakes is well-aware of this process and fully understands the differences between a criminal prosecution and an internal policy investigation. He is maliciously choosing to conflate these two processes in the hopes of confusing the people who may be unfamiliar with them.

What cannot not be denied are the following internal policy violations:

FACT- Sheriff Hakes sent inappropriate and unwanted digital communications to a subordinate.

FACT- Sheriff Hakes was made aware of the complaint, on at least six separate occasions, regarding these communications and circumvented mitigation steps put in place to limit contact with the subordinate who brought forward this complaint.

FACT- Sheriff Hakes sent a racially-charged meme, among other inappropriate digital messages.

FACT- Sheriff Hakes engaged in sales from his personal business to subordinates during work time hours.

FACT- Sheriff Hakes has made offers to subordinates to assist them in real estate transactions during work time hours.

FACT- Sheriff Hakes circumvented policy addressing the procedural steps for Chippewa County to enter into a contract with a private business.

FACT- Sheriff Hakes has consistently failed to attend required trainings, meetings, and other formal employment obligations- absenteeism.

Sheriff Hakes’ response to all of this has been not to deny his actions, but to fictitiously claim that the county board of supervisors and Chippewa County administration are politically motivated. Again, Sheriff Hakes has not denied these reported policy violations.

To further clarify, “intent” not a required element for a violation of a work place policy. Regardless of Sheriff Hakes’ claims that he was acting with the best of intention, and his after-the-fact explanation that he had made offers to pay for some of these items and service out of his own pocket, the fact remains that Sheriff Hakes is not denying multiple violations of internal policy.

Furthermore, Sheriff Hakes has recently stated that he considers himself above policy, specially using the verbiage ‘autonomy’ and questioning if the office of the Sheriff is even bound by the policies of his own department.

Consider this hypothetical situation. While involved in a high-speed vehicle pursuit, Sheriff Hakes violates the department’s state-mandated pursuit policy and tragically is involved in a crash, resulting in an injury or death. Will not the Sheriff’s own words be used against him in civil litigation? Is not Chippewa County also liable as the Sheriff is an employee of the county.

This was the overriding concern behind the decision of the board of supervisors to present Sheriff Hakes with formal documentation clearly stating the boards disapproval of his actions. Failure to take action in light of these allegations can only be viewed as approval. This was certainly not something that the county board, in complete agreement, was willing to do. Also, this was the most minimal action the board could have taken in an attempt to mitigate the potential liability incurred by the Sheriff.

Sheriff Hakes has chosen to cloud this issue of his malfeasance with false claims of political motivation as the motivation behind this investigation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only is the county board of supervisors a non-partisan governmental institution, no formal declaration of party affiliation is required when running for this office.

The current members of the county board of supervisors have a wide diversity of political opinions. Some make these more well-known that others. Some sit on the board of local political organizations. However, given the diverse political leanings of the members of the Chippewa County Board of Supervisors, it clearly speaks to the non-partisan nature of this decision, that all supervisors agreed in unison, to a formal censure of Sheriff Hakes after the investigative report was presented on the night of September 19th. I state again, this decision was made in complete solidarity with no political biases whatsoever.

It was the Sheriff himself, on the morning of September 20th, who made the incendiary claim that the board of supervisors and Chippewa County administrators had acted with political motivation. And he continues to do so, with his near-daily social media statements and media interviews.

All this is meant to draw attention away from the fact that Sheriff Hakes committed internal policy violations, which should theses have been done by a hired employee, would have already resulted in termination.

To the voters of Chippewa County District 14, I have made clear my political leanings, which I share with the Sheriff. I voted for Sheriff Hakes in the past election. I previously declined an offer from the now-Sheriff himself to run for the office of the Sheriff when her personally called me and made this request, before formally announcing his own candidacy.

These facts alone are proof positive that the actions of the county board of supervisors are anything but politically-motivated.

Throughout this entire ordeal, I will stand firm with the men and women of the Chippewa County Sheriffs Department, the employees of Chippewa County, and their families who have to endure this difficulty.

I restate by my formal call for Sheriff Hakes to resign and save both himself and Chippewa County the financial and emotional distress of this difficult process.

As has been noted in the published agenda for the October 10th county board meeting, Sheriff Hakes will be given ten minutes to make a statement to the county board as a whole and the public.

I am asking Sheriff Hakes to accept questions from the county board supervisors at this time, and if need be, have his time extended to accommodate all questions. If Sheriff Hakes truly places a high value on transparency and honesty, I would hope that he would accommodate this basic request.

Finally, I am asking that Sheriff Hakes cease his political grandstanding and the painting of this matter in a partisan light, unless he is able to produce factual information proving there is political motivation from any of the involved parties.

To those who have contacted me about this matter, I thank you for your attention and your valuable input, regardless of your stance. However, be aware that I will not stand ideally by and endure threats against the safety of me or my family, either expressed or implied.

I absolutely respect the rights to all to express their thoughts and opinions, but to do so only in a legal manner.

I will have no further comments regarding this matter until the night of October 10th, when the county board of supervisors will receive further information as to the available legal options. I pledge to provide the people of Chippewa County the utmost transparency throughout this arduous process until its conclusion.

Chippewa County Board Supervisor District 14- Robert Teuteberg

The investigation into Sheriff Hakes will be further addressed by the Chippewa County Board at a meeting Tuesday night.

WEAU will have coverage from the meeting and will provide a link to a livestream of the meeting.

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