WI Professional Police Assoc. leader calls chief's suspension "lenient" and "outrageous"

Critics of ruling pushing for appeal of case

Hortonville neighbors, some claiming fear of retaliation, voicing their concerns to the Village Board Thursday night over their police chief. 
 
Michael Sullivan is accused by fellow officers and Village leaders of intimidation, and using the police database for personal reasons.
 
On Wednesday, the police commission overseeing this case found him "culpable" on some, but not all charges.
 
His punishment is a two-week unpaid suspension, with the threat of an additional six weeks imposed if the commission ever hears of any new accusations, or retaliation, toward people involved with the original complaint. 
 
Leaders of the state's largest law enforcement group say this punishment is not enough.
 
"Chief Sullivan was found to have abused his authority, misused taxpayer resources for personal reasons, and he violated a direct order," says James Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association. "For any police commission to make such a finding, and only impose a two week suspension, is outrageous." 
 
Palmer says Sullivan's alleged use of the state police database to look up information on current and prospective tenants at his rental properties--accusations to which Sullivan admitted guilt--should come with serious ramifications under the Federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act.
 
“That violation not only creates criminal sanctions, but civil liability in the form of liquidated damages of at least $2,500 per offense, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and any other damages that a court may deem appropriate," says Palmer. "“Our organization is involved with police and fire commission proceedings across the state, and I can easily say that this is one of the most egregious instances where severe conduct has been sustained, [with] such a lenient outcome.” 
 
Hortonville neighbor Luke Abitz also voiced his concern over the future of the police department.
 
Abitz attended one of two public hearings on this case in December, and was openly criticized by both Sullivan  and his attorney, in front of a packed room, for "shaking my head" in disapproval.
 
“In fact, it led me to file a complaint with Outagamie County to protect myself against future retaliation," says Abitz. 
 
Those opposing the commission's punishment are urging the Village Board to appeal the ruling.
 
One community member did speak in favor of Sullivan, saying he has worked with him for years with no issues.
 
“I guess I didn’t know we were having a trial again tonight," said the man, who refused to give his name to, or speak with, NBC26 after addressing the Board, "first of all, the Village Board members weren’t at the proceedings. They have no idea what happened, they didn’t hear both sides of the story.”

 

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