The investigation into what Vilas County Sheriff Frank Tomlanovich had earlier called an “internal matter” has resulted in the firing of Vilas County Jail Administrator Timothy Evenson.
The Lakeland Times reported in its April 10 edition that Evenson had been placed on administrative leave by the sheriff March 12. Tomlanovich confirmed Thursday that Evenson was terminated from his county employment on April 24. Tomlanovich, however, said he could provide no other information at this time as to why Evenson was fired. “I can’t go into details now, but the county does have a grievance procedure where he has the right to appeal his termination,” Tomlanovich said.
“Until that process is over I can’t provide any other information.” Evenson referred any questions about the matter to his attorney Chris McGillis of Wauwatosa. “We definitely feel Tim’s termination was unjust and without cause and we are filing a grievance with the county over his termination today [Friday],” McGillis said.
“We believe the sheriff’s decision to terminate Tim was related to Tim’s decision to address matters of public concern regarding staffing of the county jail.” McGillis said it would be “a month or so” before any response or result of his filing the grievance would be announced. Open records request As the result of an earlier open records request related to Evenson being placed on administrative leave, The Times on May 2 received a copy of a letter mailed to Evenson on May 1 informing him of the newspaper’s request for copies of records regarding his suspension and any disciplinary records in his county employee file.
The May 1 letter was addressed to Evenson from Carol Krebs, the sheriff’s department’s legal secretary. The letter also said “I have received a request for the ‘Notice of Termination of Employment’ letter and the investigative file that was sent to you via U.S. Mail on Monday, April 23, 2012, by Sheriff Tomlanovich.”
Under Wisconsin law Evenson has the right to attempt to prevent the release of information regarding his termination and of any of his employee records. According to state law, the sheriff’s department, which is the custodian of those records must balance whether their release is in the best public interest or whether the release would violate Evenson’s rights.
When The Times receives a copy of the notice of termination and investigative file, the documents should provide details explaining why Evenson was terminated. On May 1 The Lakeland Times received copies of records from the earlier open records request. These records provided details of an incident on Jan. 21, 2011, when Evenson was driving a county-owned vehicle and was stopped for speeding by a Wisconsin State Trooper.
The mailing included copies of a statement written by Evenson and another written by the department’s chief deputy, Joe Fath, concerning the January 2011 traffic stop. It is unclear at this time if this incident is tied in any way to Evenson’s termination by the sheriff. Chief deputy’s report Fath’s report stated: “On Monday, Jan. 24, 2011, Jail Administrator Tim Evenson advised me that he was driving home on Friday, Jan. 21, 2011, and stopped by Trooper (Dennis) Bedish for speeding on STH 45 N. at the north end of the four lane at Chain O’Lakes Road.
The trooper approached the car and recognized Tim Evenson. Trooper Bedish avoided eye contact upon recognizing Tim and advised him that he was speeding. Tim said he told Trooper Bedish to do what was necessary. Trooper Bedish told Tim to slow down and released him from the stop.
“Jail administrator Evenson has been assigned a white Dodge Charger as a home based unmarked squad that is assigned to the jail for jail duties, conducting checks on Huber inmates, completing bank runs for cash deposits and for jail staff to use for training attendance. I advised jail administrator Evenson that I would inform the sheriff when he returns from training.”
Evenson’s report of incident In Evenson’s original written report of the incident dated Jan. 28, 2011, he admitted he had been speeding in the county-owned vehicle and apologized for the incident. “Trooper (Dennis) Bedish gave me a verbal warning for this infraction. He did not advise me how fast I was going, but my estimate is around 55 mph. The speed limit is 40 mph and increases to 55 mph after the road narrows to two lanes. Traffic was moderate at the time and I have no excuses other than I was not paying close enough attention to my speed.
“I assure you that this is not normal for me to speed in this manner. If you check my driving history through DOT I have no entries on my record. Also, if you review my personal file you can see that in my 16 years of employment with the department that I have no disciplinary entries including driving infractions. I have always strived to lead by example and I am quite embarrassed that this happened. Even though my contact with Trooper Bedish was brief, being that I have known him for my entire career, I could tell that he was uncomfortable with the situation and I feel terrible for placing him in that position.”
Trooper Bedish is the son of Vilas County District 14 supervisor Maynard Bedish and the husband of Vilas County Jail Sgt. Sue Bedish who has worked for the jail while Evenson was administrator. Employment history Evenson began working with the Vilas County Sheriff’s Department in 1994.
In 2002, he was promoted to jail administrator and had been in that capacity until his termination. He has also served as a coordinator and instructor for an annual basic jail officer academy which is held at the department in partnership with Nicolet Technical College. Tomlanovich said Lt. Mark Collins is currently serving as the interim jail administrator. “A promotional opportunity to fill the position will be offered to county employees,” the sheriff said.
Joe VanDeLaarschot may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.