READSTOWN — The village of Readstown has hired a private detective to investigate its only police officer, who also has been the target of a criminal investigation since September.
Vernon County District Attorney Timothy Gaskell said Monday the investigation is still open pending the results of the village’s probe but that he has so far found insufficient evidence to charge officer Shay Larson.
Vernon County Sheriff John Spears said Larson is being investigated for possible misconduct in public office. Spears and village officials have declined to discuss specifics.
Larson, a full-time Readstown police officer for three years, continues to be paid, though he works from home and is not patrolling the village. The Vernon County Sheriff’s Department has provided the village’s police protection since the investigation began in September.
The village has a population of 415.
Gerald Sallmann of Columbus is conducting the village investigation.
“It will be done as quickly as it can, but it’s also going to be complete,” Sallmann said.
Larson did not return a phone message left at the village hall. The police department’s voice mail is full and won’t take new messages.
Larson was placed on administrative leave with pay when the criminal investigation began. He returned to work in January but isn’t allowed to carry a gun or badge, and his duties were restricted to updating the police department’s manual, Village President David Edgar said.
Edgar said the board has allowed Larson to work from home because of specific threats to his safety.
A series of complaints
The village has nine complaints against Larson on file, according to a public information request filed Dec. 27.
The village declined to release the complaint that sparked the investigations.
“The village has commenced a personnel investigation that is presently ongoing,” Readstown Village Clerk Shawna Koch wrote in a Jan. 13 letter to the Broadcaster. “The village has taken reasonable steps to ensure this investigation is conducted in a thorough and careful manner with fairness and impartiality. This is a complex investigation and will take some time to complete.
“The village is statutorily barred from disclosing records pertaining to the pending investigation until the village’s investigation into these matters is concluded as required by Wisconsin [Statutes]…,” Koch wrote.
Koch’s letter, which she said was written with the aid of two attorneys working with the village, said releasing the complaint could compromise the village’s ability to obtain “untainted” evidence in its ongoing investigation.
A costly matter
Koch said the village accumulated an estimated $6,243 in legal fees between the time Larson was placed on administrative leave and Jan. 13.
Village Trustee Chad Larson said the village’s police budget is just under $40,000 per year and officers earn about $13 per hour. Shay Larson was working 32 hours per week, he said.
Edgar, the village president, said he is frustrated that the investigation hasn’t been completed and says he should have more information on its status.
“There’s a lot of things I don’t get filled in on,” Edgar said.