January 09, 2019 09:05 PM
A Wisconsin judge who spent nearly three decades on the bench in St. Croix County was under internal investigation for sexual harassment when he abruptly resigned last year, according to records obtained by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.
Judge Eric Lundell, whose resignation became effective Jan. 1, cited health issues when he announced last November that he would not finish his term.
However, a human resources report from Wisconsin State Courts – previously marked confidential – shows Lundell stepped down weeks after a female employee complained about his behavior.
The woman accused Lundell of inviting her to his house, indicating she "trips his trigger," and that he could make her a "rich widow" someday, according to the report.
It states the alleged incident took place in a courtroom when the judge and the employee were alone. Other employees interviewed by investigators later said they saw the woman visibly upset and crying after the alleged encounter.
Lundell did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
His friend and local attorney Barry Hammarback said in a statement over the phone that “there are two sides to every story,” but did not wish to comment any further due to confidentiality.
Lundell had periodically made inappropriate statements, jokes and "showed colleagues inappropriate documents," witnesses alleged in the report. Based on those statements, investigators said they believed Lundell's "inappropriate behavior was well-known and somewhat tolerated by some staff."
One witness also told county investigators they believed Lundell "may be drinking again."
Investigators concluded Lundell's pattern of behavior could be "potentially construed as harassment," and recommended that an official complaint be filed with the Wisconsin Judicial Commission. They also recommended Lundell be banned from the courthouse until the matter was resolved.
On Nov. 20, five days after the investigation was completed, Lundell sent a one-sentence resignation letter to then-Gov. Scott Walker.
In an email responding to questions from 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, a representative from the Wisconsin State Courts Office wrote that the "Wisconsin court system has no tolerance for any type of harassment or activity that would create a hostile work environment."
On Nov. 21, Don Harper, the St. Croix County District Court Administrator, issued a statement on behalf of Lundell, announcing the judge's resignation and citing his 45 years of public service as a judge, and previously as a district attorney.
The release made no mention of an investigation into the judge's alleged behavior.
Yet, the investigation shows Harper was concerned about the judge's state of mind in the weeks leading up to his resignation.
On Nov. 9, Harper planned to alert the sheriff's department to "be mindful of Judge Lundell's behavior and demeanor… in the event he could be a threat to himself or others," according to the report.
Harper did not respond to questions regarding the internal emails obtained by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.
Updated: January 09, 2019 09:05 PM
Created: January 09, 2019 12:10 PM
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