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Town of Geneva police sergeant could face criminal charge

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Kayla Bunge
April 2, 2010
— A town police sergeant demoted in November for engaging in conduct unbecoming an officer and mishandling evidence now could face a criminal charge, according to the sheriff’s office.

Sgt. Robert Haase, who was suspended for 90 days and permitted to return as a patrolman with a lower salary, is on administrative leave pending a decision on a possible felony charge of misconduct in public office.


Geneva Town Chairman Dan Lauderdale said the town requested an investigation based on testimony and evidence presented during a disciplinary hearing for Haase in November.


Capt. Dana Nigbor of the Walworth County Sheriff’s Office conducted the months-long investigation into evidence handling in an April 2008 sexual assault on which Haase worked.


Nigbor wrote in her report that:


-- Haase failed to document, put into evidence or turn over to the district attorney’s office or the defense several items including notes, photographs and a pair of the victim’s underwear.


-- Haase collected two pieces of evidence, one in late April and one in mid-June 2008, but listed them on an evidence sheet with an earlier date.


-- Haase did not remember receiving several pairs of the victim’s underwear from the victim’s mother.


Walworth County Assistant District Attorney Diane Donohoo said she has received the referral from the sheriff’s office and expects to make a decision soon.


Police Chief Ed Gritzner in August filed two charges against Haase. Gritzner placed Haase on administrative leave and asked the town police commission to consider firing him.


Haase was accused of:


-- Frequently meeting with a town court clerk, including an unfounded complaint the two had sexual contact in a town squad car while he was on duty.


-- Failing to properly package, label and secure evidence taken in a number of cases after another officer took over his cases while he was suspended. The second officer found several pieces of evidence stored in Haase’s desk.


Attorney John Olson, who represented Gritzner, argued Haase violated police department policy by having a relationship with the clerk, spending an “inordinate amount of time” texting and meeting during work hours.


Attorney Tod Daniel, who represented Haase, argued that having a relationship is not something that should be considered in evaluating the conduct of an officer.


Olson also argued Haase repeatedly violated department policies for handling evidence, calling his manner of storing and documenting evidence “slovenly” and a department’s “worst nightmare.”


Daniel argued Haase did not compromise any cases or investigations by keeping evidence—some of which had little or no value to cases—in his desk or the shelf above his desk.


Haase denied mishandling evidence.


Haase has been with the Town of Geneva Police Department since 2001.


Chief suspended recently

Haase is not the only town police officer facing disciplinary action. Gritzner, the police chief, recently was suspended for one day with pay.


Lauderdale, the town chairman, said the town and the chief reached an agreement that prevented the need for a public disciplinary hearing. He said the suspension was prompted by a verbal complaint of misconduct against the chief.


The Gazette left a message for Lauderdale in advance of a March 15 police commission meeting seeking information about a “stipulation” with the chief, as it was listed on the meeting agenda. Lauderdale did not return a phone call to a reporter at that time.


The Gazette also left several messages for Gritzner last week and this week seeking information about both the charge Haase could face and about the complaint against the chief. Gritzner could not be reached for comment.



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