Todd Hanson, the police chief for the city of Adams and a former Minocqua police officer, was suspended earlier this month while the city conducts an investigation into his conduct, according to multiple media reports.
Hanson was placed on administrative leave Jan. 2 for a personnel-related matter, the Adams-Friendship Times-Reporter reported. The investigation was not considered to be criminal in nature.
The incident is the latest in a series of controversies for Hanson, who left the Minocqua police force in 2007. While in Minocqua, he was accused of violating the police union contract by purchasing equipment items and charging them to the town without approval, as well as using town property for personal use.
He also was reprimanded for deleting emails from his work computer.
Controversy followed the officer to Adams. In September 2011, the Adams Professional Police Association Local 250 alleged that Hanson committed “overt and frequent violations of departmental and city policies” that he expected other officers to follow.
In the latest episode, Adams County sheriff Sam Wollin escorted Hanson out of his office, the Times-Reporter stated. He was informed of the leave and surrendered his keys.
Thus far, there are no details about what led to the suspension. The investigation, led by an outside counsel retained by the city of Adams, is ongoing.
In September 2007, then Minocqua town chairman Joe Handrick and town clerk Roben Haggart attempted to collect almost $300 from Hanson for various equipment items Hanson purchased just as he was leaving town employment.
On July 24, Hanson bought equipment totaling $250.99, charging it to the town without proper approval. On July 31, after he had been relieved of any further duties, he charged another $37.98.
Both actions violated the union’s contract with the town, Handrick and Haggart stated in a Sept. 5, 2007, letter to Hanson.
“We wish to point out that while you were still employed by the town of Minocqua you engaged in practices that violated that contract and violated town policy which prohibits the use of town property for personal use,” Handrick and Haggart wrote. “...Please note that the union contract provides for the uniform allowance to be a reimbursement to an employee. Employees are to purchase items and then seek to be reimbursed by the township. Purchase of an item and simply charging it to the town is in violation of this policy.”
While the town paid the bill to the vendor, that did not constitute its approval of the purchases, they continued.
As such, they stated, Hanson should pay the town for the purchases on both dates. After that, Handrick and Haggart wrote, he could seek reimbursement for the July 24 purchases, which would be forthcoming if the police chief determined they were proper. He would not be eligible to recover the July 31 expenses because he was no longer performing any work for the town on that date.
Hanson never paid the town for either bill.
That incident merely capped Hanson’s Minocqua career. In late 2004, for example, during a drug-planting investigation that ultimately led to the arrest and conviction (for obstruction) of a nephew of then DNR warden Tom Kroeplin, Hanson summoned a Minocqua resident for questioning, warning the resident to stay quiet about the case or face possible lawsuits, subpoenas or charges of obstruction himself.
The resident had merely been repeating conversations overheard on the street and had no connection to the case.
The Lakeland Times obtained a tape recording of that questioning, in which, among other things, Hanson told the resident that even repeating overheard conversations and using the word ‘allegedly’ could be considered interfering with a police investigation.
“Your name has been brought to our attention as a (person) who has all sorts of information about everything,” Hanson said on the tape.
After the resident denied any knowledge of events, Hanson asked if anybody had said anything or made comments about the case. The resident repeated the statement about having no knowledge but acknowledged hearing comments about people who might be involved.
At one point, Hanson told the resident he was being interrogated because “your name popped up because apparently somebody’s overheard you making comments in regards to what you overheard.”
After ending the questioning, Hanson talked about the consequences of gossiping about the case.
“Well, let me warn you that if you are saying things in regards to this case, you (inaudible) may be subpoenaed to testify in court,” Hanson said.
Hanson also told the resident to watch what the resident said about specific individuals.
“Even stating ‘allegedly’ will get you pulled in, and if there’s comments being made or whatever, if you’re starting to put things out about this case, about which way it’s going, make sure you don’t interfere with that case, that could be borderline obstruction, interfering with an investigation,” Hanson told the resident.
That same case also led to an internal departmental inquiry involving Hanson and missing police reports.
Indeed, the Minocqua Police Department failed to include key documents concerning Kroeplin in responding to an open records request by The Times, Department of Natural Resources records indicated.
The missing records related to a meeting between Kroeplin, DNR officials and Minocqua police officers as part of the drug-planting investigation.
In May 2006, Lakeland Times publisher Gregg Walker issued an open records request for all documents related to the investigation, which was closed. The police department complied without denying any records and without indicating any documents were missing.
Records obtained from the DNR showed that Kroeplin and his supervisor, Tom Wrasse, met with Hanson and Minocqua police chief Norbert McMahon at the Minocqua police station to discuss the police investigation, according to Wrasse’s case activity report.
DNR records described the interview in detail, and the fact that Kroeplin was considered a “person of interest” in the investigation, but no records of the interview existed at the Minocqua Police Department. Kroeplin was never charged in the affair.
Included in the Minocqua file were numerous witness statements, as well as police officers’ case reports of interviews with witnesses, suspects and others potentially related to the case. There was no indication or case report of any police meeting with Kroeplin or any phone calls to DNR officials pertaining to Kroeplin.
Hanson was the lead investigator on the case.
In yet another incident, Hanson received a verbal reprimand from McMahon after an open records request by The Lakeland Times revealed the sergeant had deleted emails received on his departmental email account.
In that incident, a county employee had forwarded some non-work-related emails to a group of individuals using his county computer; he had also received non-work-related emails from the group, which included Hanson.
The county’s investigation was prompted by the newspaper’s open records request for the emails, some of which were already obtained from a news source. An open records request was also made to the town of Minocqua for Hanson’s emails, but officials there found that Hanson had deleted them. Hanson said he did not realize he had to keep emails.
When Hanson resigned, he gave the town sufficient notice, but then town chairman Joe Handrick told him to leave early.
“We told him (Hanson) we wouldn’t need his services beyond this Friday, the 27th,” Handrick told The Times then. “I made a decision that it would be in the best interest of the town to have him leave sooner than his date of resignation.”
Mutiny in Adams
The current suspension is not the first squall of turbulence involving Hanson in Adams. In September 2011, Adams’ police officers staged a written mutiny demanding his removal.
In a Sept. 13 letter of no confidence sent to Adams’ city council members and released to the public, the Adams Professional Police Association Local 250 alleged that Hanson committed “overt and frequent violations of departmental and city policies” that he expected other officers to follow.
“On numerous occasions, Chief Hanson has made departmental policy violations throughout his tenure as Chief of Police,” the letter stated. “This in itself clearly indicates to us an obvious double-standard he places on himself versus his staff.”
The union letter said the vote of no confidence was unanimous. Among other things, the letter alleged, Hanson harassed city businesses, ordered officers to conduct illegal traffic stops, and arrested and incarcerated people for so-called crimes that did not actually exist.
In total, the letter outlined 17 different complaints against Hanson.
Ultimately, according to the Times-Reporter, the city could not substantiate some of the concerns in the letter, while valid complaints had already been dealt with.
Richard Moore may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.