Chippewa County, WI sheriff claims ‘inaccuracies’ in outside investigator’s report
The Chippewa County Board of Supervisors plans to address an outside investigator’s report into Sheriff Travis Hakes at their meeting Tuesday evening.
The Chippewa County Department of Administration-Human Resources Division Director, Toni Hohlfelder, wrote in a letter to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS earlier this week, that an outside investigator was hired by the county to look into “allegations of unwanted, inappropriate text messages by Sheriff Travis Hakes and several concerns involving Sheriff Hakes’ honesty, the imposition of his authority, and his leadership.”
The county hired the firm von Briesen & Roper to investigate the complaint. That report detailed “substantial evidence” suggesting Hakes “was attempting to entice (the complainant) into a personal relationship.”
Sheriff Hakes disputes the findings of the report that also claimed: “….by the plain language and photos within the texts, some are unequivocally sexual in nature.”
“I can tell you my grandmother read those text messages — and she didn’t think there was anything inappropriate in them,” Hakes said. “Some of the text messages were taken out of context.”
The report’s author also wrote, “In the course of conducting the investigation, substantial evidence suggested other violations of County and Department policies and Wisconsin state statutes in the area of conflict of interest,” saying evidence suggests Hakes:
“Conducted sales activities, advertised using his name and conducted transactions during work hours in which he has sold guns, knives, mugs and real estate to Department employees and others.”
“There are some things I’m accused of that I certainly didn’t do — one of them obviously would be financially benefiting from employees, I never did that,” said Sheriff Hakes. “I can see how that wouldn’t sit well with people, but when the truth comes out it’s something I didn’t do.”
The County Board’s agenda for Tuesday night shows that the Sheriff will have 10 minutes to address the report before discussion on next steps takes place.
“The County Board will discuss, and take possible action based upon the investigation authorized by the County Board regarding allegations of misconduct of the Sheriff, which may also include consideration of and authorizing pursuit of removal proceedings pursuant to Wis. Stat. Ch. 17.,” according to the posted agenda.
Chapter 17, Wis. Stats. outlines the removal process from office, which would require Wisconsin’s Governor Tony Evers to become involved in the decision.
“I have nothing to hide, I think it’s a shame that it got this far,” Hakes said. “I don’t believe anything I did, would actually constitute a removal.”
“During the investigation, Sheriff Hakes was also given several opportunities to participate in the investigation and provide information, but Sheriff Hakes declined to participate or provide information to the investigator,” according to a statement from the Chippewa County Administrator’s Office. Hakes told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS due to initial scheduling issues, and then upon later advise from his own legal counsel, he “decided not to participate.”