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Linn chief brings allegations against lieutenant

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Kayla Bunge
July 3, 2009
— The town of Linn police chief is asking a newly appointed police committee to fire a lieutenant for talking to other officers about an ongoing criminal investigation involving members of the police department.

The investigation stems from an incident about two years ago in which Police Chief Dennis Wisniewski sold a lawnmower taken as evidence in a theft investigation. He was accused of selling it for $250 to a relative of Detective Will Borgen, who investigated the case.


Lt. Terrence O’Brien is accused of:


-- Talking to other officers about an ongoing criminal investigation involving members of the police department;


-- Identifying the names of people being investigated by the sheriff’s department and the district attorney’s office;


-- Disrespecting his superior;


-- Promising promotions, preferred shift assignments and training opportunities to other officers without authority; and


-- Harming department credibility and morale.


Wisniewski said he considers the allegation “serious” violations of police department policy.


“It’s something that needs to be dealt with,” he said.


According to a statement of charges that will be presented to the police commission:


On Jan. 20, O’Brien told officers Juan Ortiz and James Bushey that “some serious stuff”—accusations of misconduct and possible criminal charges—would be brought against members of the police department and could lead to those members being fired.


O’Brien told the officers he could not say who was in trouble but named four officers who were not in trouble and said “you can figure it out from there.”


O’Brien told the officers he had been interviewed by the sheriff’s department about the investigation and if they were questioned to tell investigators they had nothing to do with it and knew nothing about it.


O’Brien also told the officers there probably would be a change in the administration following the investigation and asked them if they “were on his side and to stick with him.”


On Feb. 21, O’Brien told officer Lee Redlin he did not want him to be “blindsided” if he was questioned about the incident involving Wisniewski and Borgen.


O’Brien also told him “there will be some major changes at the police department” following the investigation.


He said he would eliminate the lieutenant position, create two sergeant positions and promote Bushey and Ortiz to sergeant. He also said he might assign Ortiz to detective when Borgen was no longer with the department. He also said he would ask that Redlin take a full-time position and would put him in charge of training new officers and send him to training to become a firearms instructor.


On Feb. 26, O’Brien called Ortiz on his cell phone and asked him if he had read the story about the investigation in the Lake Geneva Regional News. He said he hated that the story made it to the paper and was sorry to see Wisniewski’s and Borgen’s careers ruined by this.


According to the statement, O’Brien also is accused of sleeping while on duty after Ortiz on May 24 found him sleeping in his assigned vehicle during a shift.


The town board on Monday appointed three people to a police committee to hear the charges, said Clerk Sue Polyock.


A hearing is required within 30 days, but a hearing has not yet been scheduled, said town attorney David Schiltz. The committee will determine whether O’Brien should be terminated or disciplined, he said.


According to the police department Web site, O’Brien has been with the department since May 2005.



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