Earlier this month, the Madison Police Department filed a complaint seeking the termination of Officer Mike Grogan, more than two years after placing him on paid leave. To date, the city has paid more than $200,000 for Grogan to not come to work. Expect that to increase, as Grogan plans an aggressive defense.
In fact, Grogan is trying to turn the tables on his accusers. In a letter obtained by Isthmus, he rips the MPD's former head of internal affairs, Lt. Brian Ackeret, for having 'an unfair and biased hidden agenda.'
This letter, addressed to Police Chief Noble Wray, suggests Ackeret committed felony misconduct by lying during his investigation and under oath before the Madison Police and Fire Commission. It says these matters are now under review by the Division of Criminal Investigation, an arm of the state Justice Department.
Lt. Ackeret confirms DCI is investigating but declines further comment. Assistant Chief John Davenport says he conducted his own review of the allegations against Ackeret and 'determined they were unfounded,' but agreed to ask the state to review his review.
In the early morning hours of Dec. 19, 2004, Grogan broke into a residence in Delafield, apparently believing it was his own home, after driving his car into a ditch. Grogan, who has a 2001 drunk driving conviction, was tracked down several hours later; one deputy told Ackeret he was 'definitely still intoxicated.'
Last August, a jury found Grogan guilty of misdemeanor disorderly conduct, but deadlocked on a charge of criminal damage to property, which was subsequently dismissed. Grogan, who blamed his behavior on a head injury from the auto crash, got 12 months' probation and had to pay restitution.
Grogan passed up opportunities for comment, as did his attorneys, Brian Kinstler and Gordon McQuillen. Scott Favour of the Madison Professional Police Officers Association says simply, 'We support Mike and hope he is exonerated by the PFC.'
Last November, the PFC suspended Grogan for three days without pay for failing to cooperate with the MPD's probe into the 2004 incident; it found he 'actively interfered' by instructing a witness to not talk.
The MPD's complaint accuses Grogan, 47, of untruthfulness and unlawful conduct. Besides the 2004 incident, it says Grogan violated MPD policy by not telling his supervisors he was accused of stealing $9.50 in gas from a Kwik Trip in Wales last September.
Grogan, who used a credit card to buy other items, was allegedly asked three times by a clerk if he had gotten gas, and said he hadn't; afterward, he hung up on a deputy looking into the matter. Grogan's wife later came to the Kwik Trip to pay for the gas.
The deputy wanted Grogan charged with petty theft, but the Waukesha County District Attorney's Office instead filed (and later dismissed) a noncriminal charge of resisting/obstructing. Grogan, in his letter to Wray, notes that MPD rules require officers accused of unlawful conduct to report this 'within 24 hours of their return to duty.' He says it's 'open to interpretation' how this applies to someone on administrative leave. (For Grogan's letter and the PFC complaint, see this story on TheDailyPage.com)
Davenport says the MPD waited for Grogan's cases to play out in court, hence the long delay. Since being placed on leave in January 2005, Grogan has received $135,841 in salary and $64,795 in benefits.
The PFC will likely hold an initial hearing on Grogan's case at its May 2 meeting, but the scheduling of evidentiary hearings could be delayed due to a vacancy on the five-member panel. The mayor's office has not yet nominated a replacement, and mayoral aide George Twigg doesn't know 'when that will happen.' No need to rush.
Foreclosures hit home
In 2006, there were 752 housing foreclosure actions filed in Dane County, up from 478 in 2005. The number of cases that were neither dismissed nor vacated was up even more dramatically, from 219 in 2005 to 482 last year.
'While the numbers have been generally trending upwards, clearly something happened between 2005 and 2006,' says Clerk of Courts Carlo Esqueda, who tallied the numbers for the last six years at Isthmus' request. 'There was a 57% increase in filings between those two years, and a 120% increase in the number of foreclosures that apparently actually went all the way.'
Moreover, Esqueda says the numbers for 2007 are 'tracking high, almost mirroring 2006, in terms of new filings,' although data on outcomes is not yet available.
What's happening? If Dane County is like the rest of the country ' and in this particular it might be ' the likely culprit is the boom of subprime loans. These are high-risk, high-cost mortgages, often offered at initially low interest rates that later spike.
In 2005, subprime loans accounted for 21% of new mortgages in Wisconsin, including more than a third of the ones in Milwaukee. The state now ranks 11th in the nation on loan defaults, based on the final quarter of 2006.
The good news: Many subprime lenders are themselves going belly up. As Nelson would say, 'Ha-ha.'
Book 'em, Dano
Sandi Torkildson, proprietor of A Room of One's Own, thinks a proposed new ordinance is 'well intentioned but not well thought out.' Her particular concern is that it represents a threat to civil liberties.
'The police,' she says, 'don't have a right to know what people are reading.'
The ordinance, which after a round of referrals will come back before the Madison Common Council next Tuesday, extends the city's existing ordinance for secondhand dealers to stores that make at least 25% of their revenue selling textbooks. It requires these stores, when buying used textbooks, to get a physical description of the seller, check his or her ID, and record a driver's license or Social Security number.
Moreover, sellers must list 'each textbook included in the transaction' on a Madison Police Department form.
The ordinance's sponsor, former Ald. Austin King, says these forms could be helpful when police get reports 'about particular books being stolen.' He doesn't think they should ' or will ' be used for any other purpose.
King notes this policy has long applied to other secondhand sales, including jewelry and CDs. But he agrees critics have identified some unclear language: 'We didn't tinker with existing procedure. Maybe we should have.'
The price James Dailey must pay for not allowing a man with service dogs in his bar keeps getting higher. On March 30, Dane County Judge Sarah O'Brien affirmed a Madison Equal Opportunities Commission ruling ordering Dailey, the owner of Buck's Madison Square, to pay $5,500 to Michael Nichols, who uses two service dogs for emotional disorders and got the heave-ho in February 2003.
Dailey must also pay Nichol's legal fees ' about $32,000, so far ' on top of his own legal fees and what Nichols says was a $2,500 payment to settle a separate EOC complaint over a dustup last May (Watchdog, 8/4/06). Early on, Nichols says Dailey rejected his offer to settle the first case for $500, an apology, employee education and a 'Service animals welcome' sign.
On Monday, Judge O'Brien denied a request for reconsideration from Dailey's lawyer, Matthew Fleming. Of course, Dailey could always still appeal.