Village continues to pay suspended officer
Village of Butler — Taxpayers may have to continue to pay police Lt. Brian Pergande nearly $90,000 in annual salary and benefits despite the fact that he has been accused of misconduct twice within a year and because village officials, so far, have declined to take action against him.
Last week, Pergande was formally charged with official misconduct by taking inappropriate photographs of a stripper while she was being held — perhaps improperly — in the Butler police station in 2009, according to a complaint filed by Waukesha District Attorney Brad Schimel in Waukesha County Circuit Court.
Almost a year ago, in April of 2013, the Waukesha County Sheriff's office accused Pergande of sending a picture of a woman's bared breasts from his cell phone to his department email. According to the sheriff's report, he also made inappropriate racial remarks to Waukesha County deputies while they were on assignment searching for African American suspects.
Pergande improperly used a criminal justice computer network to do background checks on his daughter and a man dating his ex-wife, according to the sheriff's investigation.
Following the investigation, the village placed Pergande on administrative leave in April pending a decision from the district attorney's office about possible criminal charges against Pergande.
Since then, he has been paid approximately $87,000 in salary and benefits. He received approximately $64,000 in salary and benefits while not working for about eight months in 2013. So far, he has been paid about $23,000 in salary and benefits during the first three months of 2014.
A difficult process
Disciplining or terminating a police officer can be a cumbersome and expensive process, according to municipal officials.
Since the village does not have a police commission, state law requires it to hire a hearing officer or appoint three people to conduct a hearing to determine whether the officer should be disciplined or terminated.
The village is required to present witnesses to testify regarding the officer's misconduct and the officer has the opportunity to bring witnesses to testify in his defense.
However, village officials appear hard-pressed to explain why during the past year they had not sought either disciplinary action or dismissal of the lieutenant based on the accusations in the sheriff's investigation.
Elected village trustees refuse to discuss the matter. They either do not return a reporter's phone calls or refer all questions to the village attorney or village administrator.
Village Attorney Paul Alexy said that the village did not seek disciplinary action or termination against Pergande because they did not want to jeopardize the district attorney's investigation.
However, Schimel said that he recalls telling the village on two occasions that the village could proceed with disciplinary action against Pergande without interfering with the district attorney's investigation.
Lake County Publications is seeking documents from the village and district attorneys office that would verify when the village was informed that it could proceed against Pergande and why the village decided not to take action.
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