The Hortonville Police and Fire Commission spent the better part of five hours Wednesday night listening to testimony from seven witnesses who were called to testify against Hortonville Police Chief Michael Sullivan.
Hortonville Police Chief Michael Sullivan had been placed on paid administrative leave since mid-October, since he had come under investigation after complaints against him.
On Wednesday night, witnesses testified that he had a patterned use of vulgar language, calling officers, as well as village board members, inappropriate names, threatening officers with punishment if they filed any grievances, disclosing confidential information, and also the use of a restricted law enforcement database for personal reasons.
In the opening arguments, Sullivan’s attorney, George Gill Sr., argued that the meeting should not have even been held after their recent discovery of the police and fire commission’s bylaws.
“I asked for these, I demanded these, I was told they don’t exist,” Gill stated powerfully holding up the bylaws. “I went through this and I found out the incredible abuses that were perpetrated under the direction of [Village Board President] Traci Martens and [Village Administrator] Diane Wessel. Had these rules been followed, we wouldn’t be here tonight.”
The attorney representing the village, James Macy, stated that the bylaws were something that village officials did not know about and questioned whether they could even be applied to the case.
“We don’t know of any rules, we’ve said that all along,” Macy countered. “If we had, of course we would want everybody to have them. The best that we know, and Mr. Gill knows this, we aren’t aware of any rules. If there were rules, and as it was explained to Mr. Gill, the person who would have best knowledge of any rules existing, would be the police chief.”
The police and fire commission took a brief recess to discuss the presentation of the bylaws, but decided to proceed with the testimonies, rather than adjourn 20 minutes into the hearing.
Testimonies throughout the night came from a number of officers in the department, and even an ex-officer in the Hortonville, Jason Sweeney, who testified to Sullivan’s off-colored remarks, which were too much to continue his employment in the force, citing the fact he couldn’t work under Chief Sullivan’s supervision.
Overall, much of the night featured witnesses being called on behalf of the village and ended after Village Administrator, Diane Wessel, went through direct examination. The hearing will resume with a cross-examination from Sullivan’s council, as they will also be able to call their own witnesses. Each side will then conclude with their closing arguments and await on the commission to issue its final, written conclusion of any kind of discipline to be handed down on Sullivan.
The hearing will resume Thursday night from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. at the Community Center in the Municipal Service Building in Hortonville.