Tag Archives: probe

Court allows some Walker probe papers public

The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently ordered the release of documents from John Doe investigations of Gov. Scott Walker and his associates relating to Walker’s time as Milwaukee county executive and then governor.

The court ordered that several dozen documents be made available to the public. It is unclear how heavily redacted the documents will be.

Documents from the secret investigations had been sealed, though some have been leaked.

Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson partially dissented from the decision, saying she favored the release of the documents but did not agree that all the redactions were necessary or consistent.

Justices Ann Walsh Bradley, Rebecca Grassl Bradley and Daniel Kelly did not participate.

Both John Doe investigations were launched by Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm.

The first, in 2010, resulted in convictions of six of Walker’s aides for actions including stealing money from a veterans’ event and campaigning on public time.

The second, launched in 2012, centered on whether Walker’s 2012 recall campaign illegally coordinated with outside conservative groups.

The state Supreme Court halted that probe in 2014, saying such coordination is legal as long as it doesn’t become express advocacy, a political term for advertising that specifically asks voters to defeat or elect a candidate.

Supreme Court declines to reopen Walker campaign case

The U.S. Supreme Court will not take up an appeal on the John Doe 2 case, permanently ending a probe into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign against a recall.

The high court declined to reopen the John Doe 2 investigation, leaving in place the state supreme court’s decision that halted the John Doe probe into whether the Republican governor illegally coordinated with outside interest groups, specifically the conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth. The state court’s decision was considered highly partisan.

In the probe, prosecutors were looking into whether Walker’s campaign coordinated with conservative groups on campaign ads in 2012. The governor was fighting off a recall effort after he signed his bill stripping public unions of collective bargaining rights.

The Wisconsin Justice Initiative on Oct. 3 said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision highlights a need to reform state judicial campaign laws.

“This unfortunate decision doesn’t erase the perception that money corrupted the deliberative process of the Wisconsin Supreme Court,” WJI executive director Gretchen Schuldt said. “That court’s majority took too much in campaign funds from too many players with interests in the case. The money raises suspicions that will never go away.”

The state should bar judges from participating in cases that include or might affect campaign donors, according to WJI. Also, judges should be blocked from participating in cases involving groups or individuals who have provided endorsements in the judges’ races.

“The integrity of the state supreme court has rightly been called into question,” Schuldt said. “The court itself does not want to restore it and the U.S. Supreme Court does not want to restore it. It is up to Wisconsin voters to insist that their legislators enact laws that will ensure the state supreme court is the pride of Wisconsin, not the huge embarrassment it is now.”

Iowa County District Attorney Larry Nelson, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm issue a joint statement after learning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision: “We are disappointed by today’s Supreme Court order denying our Petition for Certiorari. The state supreme court decision, left intact by today’s order, prohibits Wisconsin citizens from enacting laws requiring the full disclosure of disguised contributions to a candidate, i.e., monies expended by third parties at the direction of a candidate for the benefit of that candidate’s election. We are proud to have taken this fight as far as the law would allow and we look forward to the day when Wisconsin adopts a more enlightened view of the need for transparency in campaign finance.”

Wisconsin Club for Growth president Eric O’Keefe, according to Wisconsin Public Radio, said, “From its inception, this proceeding was a politically motivated attack and a criminal investigation in search of a theory.”

The high court announced the decision without explanation on Oct. 3, the court’s first day of the fall term. The order said, “The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.”

Editor’s note: This story will be updated.

 

Wisconsin Supreme Court ends probe of Scott Walker’s gubernatorial campaign

Presidential candidate Scott Walker won a major legal victory on July 16, when Wisconsin’s Supreme Court ended a secret investigation into whether the Republican’s gubernatorial campaign illegally coordinated with conservative groups during the 2012 recall election.

No one has been charged in the so-called John Doe probe, Wisconsin’s version of a grand jury investigation in which information is tightly controlled. But questions about the investigation have dogged Walker for months.

“Today’s ruling confirmed no laws were broken, a ruling that was previously stated by both a state and federal judge,” said Walker’s spokeswoman AshLee Strong. “It is time to move past this unwarranted investigation that has cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Prosecutors accused Walker and the groups of illegally coordinating their campaign efforts in violation of state law. They denied wrongdoing.

Barring an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the ruling makes Walker’s campaign that much smoother as he courts voters in early primary states.

The case centers on political activity conducted by Wisconsin Club for Growth and other conservative organizations during the 2012 recall, which was spurred by Democrats’ anger over a Walker-authored law that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers.

The court’s conservative majority cited free speech in effectively tossing out the case, ruling state election law is overbroad and vague in defining what amounts to “political purposes.”

Justice Michael Gableman, part of the court’s conservative majority — which includes David Prosser, Annette Ziegler and Patience Roggensack — praised the conservative groups for challenging the investigation.

“It is fortunate, indeed, for every other citizen of this great State who is interested in the protection of fundamental liberties that the special prosecutor chose as his targets innocent citizens who had both the will and the means to fight the unlimited resources of an unjust prosecution,” Gableman wrote in the majority opinion.

Gableman wrote that prosecutors alleged the groups and the campaign coordinated on issue advocacy, communications that don’t expressly call for a candidate’s defeat or victory, and should have reported their spending and abided by fundraising limits.

Regulations governing coordination for political purposes must be limited to express advocacy, that is, advertisements and communications that clearly call on voters to defeat or elect a specific candidate, Gableman wrote. With that limitation in place, Wisconsin’s law doesn’t prohibit any of the coordination the prosecutors believe was illegal.

“To be clear, this conclusion ends the John Doe investigation because the … prosecutor’s legal theory is unsupported in either reason or law,” Gableman wrote. “Consequently, the investigation is closed.”

Gableman and the court’s other conservative justices received millions of dollars in donations from Wisconsin Club for Growth and at least two other groups named in the probe. In February, lead prosecutor Francis Schmitz asked unnamed justices to recuse themselves to avoid the appearance of impropriety, but the justices didn’t respond.

Heavily financed by the groups targeted in the John Doe case, Chief Justice Patience Roggensack outspent rival Ed Fallone nearly 5-1 in her successful 2013 bid to retain her seat on the court. Roggensack is one of Gov. Scott Walker’s most reliable allies on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Roggensack and the court’s other conservatives have maintained that no judge should ever be forced into recusal, but rather that it should be left to the individual justice’s discretion. That’s also the practice followed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Schmitz had no immediate comment, saying he needed time to read the ruling.

Justice Shirley Abrahamson, one of two liberals on the seven-member court, sharply disagreed in a dissent that accused the majority of a faulty interpretation of state law.

“The majority opinion delivers a significant blow to Wisconsin’s campaign finance law and to its paramount objectives of `stimulating vigorous campaigns on a fair and equal basis’ and providing for `a better informed electorate,'” Abrahamson wrote.

Republicans had called the investigation, launched by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat, a partisan witchhunt. Wisconsin Club for Growth and its director Eric O’Keefe filed a federal civil rights lawsuit last year seeking to halt the probe, arguing the investigation violates their free speech rights. U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa sided with the club but a federal appellate court later tossed out the lawsuit, saying the issue belonged in state courts.

The club and O’Keefe then turned to the state Supreme Court, which is controlled by a four-justice conservative majority.

Abrahamson was joined in a separate dissent by swing justice Patrick Crooks. The court’s other liberal justice, Ann Walsh Bradley, recused herself because her son works for a law firm involved in the case.

The high court’s partisan nature has long been exceptionally public, including a physical confrontation between Prosser and Bradley in 2011 and, just months ago, a bitter transition in leadership as Roggensack took over as chief justice from Abrahamson.

Howard Schweber, an associate professor of political science and legal studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said before the ruling that prosecutors could seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court, possibly arguing bias, if they lost.

Reaction to the development …

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce CEO Kurt R. Bauer: “WMC is very pleased that the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled today in favor of constitutionally protected free speech and association. It sends a clear message that the law will not tolerate government officials who abuse their vast powers and unlimited financial resources to harass and intimidate a select group of law abiding citizens and organizations.”

Matt Rothschild, the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign: “It is not only regrettable; it is downright dangerous. …The decision is downright dangerous because it goes further than any previous court decision in legalizing coordination with so-called issue-advocacy groups, which will make a mockery of campaign contribution limits.”

> Wisconsin Attorney General Brad D. Schimel: “This closes a divisive chapter in Wisconsin history, and the assertive recognition of First Amendment rights by the Wisconsin Supreme Court protects free speech for all Wisconsinites. The Court’s decision leaves no doubt that the John Doe investigation is over.”

> Senate Judiciary Chairperson Van Wanggaard: “Today’s Supreme Court decision shutting down the renegade Government Accountability Board’s theory of campaign finance laws is a complete victory for free speech. But there is still work to do.”

Common Cause of Wisconsin’s Jay Heck: “As expected, a highly compromised Wisconsin Supreme Court majority has issued a highly flawed decision today ending the John Doe investigation of possible illegal coordination between Governor Scott Walker and his 2011-2012 recall campaign with outside special interest groups. The decision should be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

One Wisconsin Now executive director Scot Ross: “It’s clear that one party rule in the legislative, executive and judicial branches in Wisconsin means Scott Walker and his cronies are free to run amok, ignoring the rules whenever it gives them a partisan advantage and looting the state for their campaign benefactors.” 

Editor’s note: This story is developing.

Appeals court hears arguments in Walker-related probe

Wisconsin prosecutors on Sept. 9 tried to persuade a federal appeals court to let them to resume their investigation of Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election campaign, in a case that touches on broader issues about just what constitutes constitutionally-protected political activity.

In more than 90 minutes of questioning, three judges on a panel at the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago didn’t give a clear indication of which way they might be leaning. But two of the three repeatedly broached questions about whether federal judges should intervene in what appeared to be a state matter.

When it comes to federal courts dictating to states about criminal investigations or anything else, Judge Frank Easterbook said, what precedent demands is, “Be modest. Be careful.”

The arguments in a downtown Chicago building took place two months before Walker – a Republican seen as a potential 2016 candidate for president – faces a closely contested re-election against Democrat Mary Burke.

Walker made a national name for himself when he took on public sector unions in 2011. That fight led to the 2012 vote to recall Walker, which he won. The recall battle ultimately led to the legal dispute now in the Chicago court.

No one has been charged in the investigation and prosecutors have said Walker isn’t a target. Republicans have dismissed it as a partisan witch hunt against conservative groups, while Democrats say it has revealed serious questions about possible illegal activity by Walker and his backers.

The case centers on the type of political activity done by the conservative groups during the recall campaign and whether that work required them to follow state laws that bar coordination with candidates, require disclosure of political donations and place limits on what can be collected.

Much of the arguments in the hearing this week focused on the intricacies of Wisconsin’s criminal system.

Easterbrook, who was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan, and Judge Diane Wood – named to the bench by Democrat Bill Clinton – both sounded skeptical about whether a federal court was justified in telling a state how to conduct criminal inquiries.

“I don’t understand why a federal court – at this micro-level – should be brought in,” Wood said.

Prosecutors, who opened the investigation in 2012, want the appeals court to reverse a preliminary decision halting the investigation in May and dismiss the federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth and its director, Eric O’Keefe.

Wood said she was “troubled” about encouraging the notion that anyone unhappy about a state investigation targeting them can simply “come running across the street to a federal court” and ask a U.S. judge to stop it.

A lawyer for the conservative groups said his clients had little other recourse but to seek federal court intervention. He argued that prosecutors were trampling on rights protected by U.S. Constitution.

“The issue is our clients’ right … to be free of retaliation (for expressing) his First Amendment rights,” said attorney Mark DeLaquil.

In a court filing, prosecutors decried the lower-court ruling halting their investigation, saying it gave too much weight to the interests of well-funded, politically minded groups and not enough to the public interest.

On the surface, the composition of the three-judge panel hearing the case, with two Republican and one Democratic appointee – would appear to favor the conservatives. But judges are fiercely independent and their decisions frequently do not line up with the party of the president who appointed them.

The other judge on the panel is William Bauer, who was appointed by Republican President Gerald Ford in 1974.

The judges this week voiced similar reservations about federal court intervention when they heard arguments from a media attorney asking the panel to order a state judge to open now-seal documents in the investigation.

“We have to assume the Wisconsin judiciary knows Wisconsin law,” Easterbrook said. “You are asking us to… override Wisconsin law” about keeping investigative records secret.

Judge who halted ‘John Doe’ probe attended Koch-funded junkets

The U.S. district judge who earlier this month halted the “John Doe” criminal probe into spending in the 2011-12 recall elections attended judicial junkets funded by the ultra-conservative Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, according to a report from the Center for Media and Democracy.

The all-expenses paid junkets also received funding from the Lynne and Harry Bradley Foundation, according to the Center for Media and Democracy’s prwatch.org.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa blocked the Doe probe on May 6. Investigators were looking into alleged illegal coordination between nonprofits such as the Wisconsin Club for Growth and Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign, as well as the campaigns of state senators facing a recall vote.

Wisconsin Club for Growth and director Eric O’Keefe asked the court to stop the investigation on the grounds that it violated freedom of speech.

Randa did stop the investigation and ordered the destruction of evidence gathered by prosecutors — an order that’s been put on hold pending an appeals court review.

The Center for Media and Democracy reported that Randa attended judicial seminars put on George Mason University in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012, which were private-funded and all-expenses paid.

“The George Mason University seminars are bankrolled by a long list of right-wing foundations, like Koch, Bradley and the Searle Freedom Trust, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and corporations like BP, ExxonMobil and Dow Chemical,” the center stated. “

The center based its reporting on a review of financial disclosure documents and said no other federal district judges in the state attended the George Mason programs.

The watchdog group noted that the Koch foundation gave $5.45 million in 2012 to the George Mason University Foundation and another $51,000 to the George Mason Law and Economics Center. The Koch network also has contributed funding the Wisconsin Club for Growth, the nonprofit involved in the case Randa ruled on.

UPDATE: 2 years in prison for ex-Walker aide

UPDATED: A close associate of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker who was convicted of stealing more than $20,000 from a nonprofit group was sentenced to two years in prison on Jan. 22.

Timothy D. Russell pleaded guilty in November 2012 to felony theft, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. While first-time offenders are often sentenced to probation for property crimes such as theft, prosecutors argued Russell should be held to a higher standard because he was a public official who violated the community’s trust.

“This crime reflects moral depravity,” Bruce Landgraf, an assistant district attorney, wrote in a sentencing memorandum last week.

Most of the money Russell stole came from the account of the Heritage Guard Preservation Society, a nonprofit group that organizes outings for veterans to the Milwaukee County Zoo. Russell was appointed to lead the group by Walker, in whose administration Russell worked while Walker was the Milwaukee County executive from 2002 to 2010. 

Russell used his position to steal at least $21,000 from the group in 2009 and 2010, the criminal complaint said. He spent the money on vacations to Hawaii and the Caribbean and on a trip to Atlanta to meet GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain.

Russell was sentenced this morning (Jan. 22). In addition to the two-year prison sentence, he was sentenced to five years probation.

Milwaukee Circuit Judge David Hansher said Russell failed to shore remorse or regret.

Prosecutors, in addition to seeking a two-year prison term and probation, asked that Russell be ordered to pay total restitution of more than $27,000.

Landgraf said Russell faced foreclosure proceedings in 2010 and filed for bankruptcy in 2012. However, he said Russell appeared to use the stolen money not to alleviate his financial stress but to pay for vacations and expenses, including a $140 veterinary bill for a sick pet.

“It was not important to Mr. Russell that the money he was stealing was donated through the generosity of private citizens, both individuals and corporations, for the benefit of military heroes,” Landgraf wrote.

The charges against Russell stemmed from a secret investigation prosecutors launched into Walker’s county administration in May 2010. Three other former aides to Walker, as well as a campaign donor have been convicted on charges ranging from theft to misconduct in office.

Russell’s domestic partner, Brian Pierick, was also caught up in the probe. Prosecutors charged him with child enticement last year after investigators working on Russell’s case said they uncovered evidence Pierick tried to coax a 17-year-old boy into his van for sex. Pierick’s trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 29.

Walker hasn’t been charged and has repeatedly said he is not a target in the probe. It’s unclear whether investigators have finished their work, though. Landgraf has declined to comment on the investigation’s status, and everyone involved, included the targets of the investigation, is prohibited from discussing details.

The judge overseeing the investigation has said the probe remains open.

Judge: John Doe/ex-Walker aides investigation continues

The judge overseeing the investigation into people who worked for Republican Gov. Scott Walker when he was the Milwaukee County executive said on Nov. 28 that the probe is not complete and remains open.

Walker had said on Nov. 27 that he hoped the so-called “John Doe” investigation would end as early as this week. He made the comments in response to a question at a meeting of the Dairy Business Association and said afterward that he was basing his hope on media accounts and a general feeling that the investigation was winding down.

But retired Waukesha County Judge Neal Nettesheim told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his home that anyone guessing that the probe was coming to an end was engaging in “pure conjecture.”

“The John Doe is not completed,” Nettesheim said. “It is still open.”

The investigation into Walker’s former aides and associates during his time as Milwaukee County executive began in May 2010, six months before he was elected governor. Six people have been charged with crimes including misconduct in office and theft, but Walker has not been charged or accused of any wrongdoing. 

Walker said early this week that he was “absolutely” confident that he was not the target of the investigation. On Nov. 28, when asked to respond to the judge’s comment that the probe was still active, the governor reiterated that he had no inside knowledge that it was nearing an end, but that was simply his hope.

“It hasn’t stopped us from doing our job,” he said after giving a 45-minute speech to the state’s chamber of commerce about his priorities for next year. “My focus hasn’t changed.”

Walker said he would be “happy and hopeful it would be done this week.”

Bruce Landgraf, an assistant district attorney leading the investigation, has declined to comment on its status.

Six people have been charged so far as a result of the probe:

• Tim Russell, a former deputy chief of staff for Walker in his county office, reached a plea deal with prosecutors in a felony embezzlement case. Russell was charged with embezzling more than $20,000 from a veterans group that Walker assigned him to lead. 

• Kelly Rindfleisch, another former deputy chief of staff, pleaded guilty to a felony count of misconduct in office after she did campaign work on taxpayers’ time. Three similar counts were dismissed. She was sentenced last week to six months in jail.

• Kevin D. Kavanaugh, whom Walker had named to the county Veterans Service Commission, was found guilty last month of stealing more than $51,000 that had been donated to help veterans and their families. He is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 7.

• Darlene Wink, a former Walker aide, pleaded guilty this summer to two misdemeanor charges of working on Walker’s gubernatorial campaign on county time. She has a Jan. 10 sentencing hearing.

• William Gardner, president and chief executive officer of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co., was sentenced to two years’ probation in July after being found guilty of exceeding state campaign donation limits and laundering campaign donations to Walker and other Wisconsin politicians.

• Brian Pierick, Russell’s domestic partner, was charged with child enticement, evidence of which was allegedly discovered during the investigation of Russell. Pierick’s jury trial is scheduled to start Jan. 29.

Few signs that John Doe probe will net more suspects

When a former aide to Gov. Scott Walker is sentenced, the hearing will bring to a close the second of six cases that grew out of a long-running investigation into Walker’s office when he served as the Milwaukee County executive.

Details of the entire probe are secret, so everyone from investigators to those being investigated are prohibited from discussing details. So it’s not clear how close the so-called John Doe investigation is to wrapping up.

But there have been few indications that additional suspects will be named, at least according to sparse online court records. A total of 13 people have asked for and received immunity in exchange for their testimony, but the last time that happened was nearly six months ago.

Bruce Landgraf, an assistant district attorney leading the investigation, said he couldn’t comment on whether any more charges or suspects would be named.

So far, six people have been charged, of whom four have been convicted and one sentenced. The other two head to trial in coming months.

Walker has continually said he’s not a target of the investigation, and has not been charged. He voluntarily agreed to meet with prosecutors in April.

One of his former top aides, Kelly Rindfleisch, pleaded guilty last month to a felony count of misconduct in office, stemming from allegations that she did campaign work on the taxpayers’ time. Three similar counts were dismissed.

Rindfleisch, who was Walker’s deputy chief of staff in 2010 in the county executive’s office, is scheduled to be sentenced today. Landgraf has promised to recommend jail time and probation rather than prison. 

In a pre-sentencing memorandum released last week, Landgraf noted that Rindfleisch’s plea averted a trial that would have revealed thousands of emails she exchanged with campaigns for Walker and another Republican candidate. He also revealed that she’d apparently been on the payroll for Walker’s campaign even after she was charged.

The only person to be sentenced thus far was railroad executive William Gardner. He was sentenced to two years’ probation in July after being found guilty of exceeding state campaign donation limits and laundering campaign donations to Walker and other Wisconsin politicians.

Walker’s campaign returned the $43,800 in donations Gardner had given him.

Another Walker aide, Darlene J. Wink, pleaded guilty this summer to two misdemeanor charges of working on Walker’s gubernatorial campaign on county time. She was scheduled to be sentenced this Wednesday, but Landgraf said he’ll ask for the hearing to be postponed a third time so he could extract her continued cooperation on the prosecution of Tim Russell, another Walker associate.

Russell, Walker’s former deputy chief of staff, is charged with stealing more than $21,000 from a nonprofit Walker asked him to lead. His jury trial is set to begin Dec. 3.

Four days after that, Kevin D. Kavanaugh is scheduled to be sentenced. Kavanaugh, whom Walker had named to the county Veterans Service Commission, was found guilty last month of stealing more than $51,000 that had been donated to help veterans and their families.

The sixth person charged as a result of the probe is Brian Pierick, Russell’s domestic partner. He is accused of child enticement, evidence of which was allegedly discovered during the investigation of one of the others.

Pierick’s jury trial is scheduled to start Jan. 29.

Outed gay sheriff cleared in abuse of power probe

Paul Babeu has been cleared in a state investigation into whether he abused his authority as sheriff of Arizona’s Pinal County, after his former boyfriend who is a Mexican immigrant accused Babeu of threatening him.

State Solicitor General Dave Cole said that nothing indicates Babeu misused his authority or public money to harass or intimidate Jose Orozco, and Cole declined to file criminal charges in the case. He also exonerated Orozco, whom Babeu accused of property and identity theft in the handling of the sheriff’s Twitter account and other websites.

Babeu had asked the attorney general’s office earlier this year to look into Orozco’s claims. Cole oversaw the seven-month investigation to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest on the part of Attorney General Tom Horne.

“The truth has won out in the end,” Babeu said in a statement. “I was attacked personally, professionally and politically with these false allegations, and today, I’m fully cleared. It’s not surprise that these attacks came during an election year in a failed attempt to destroy me.”

Orozco’s attorney Adnan Horan said his client “is disappointed with the solicitor general’s decision not proceed with any charges against Sheriff Babeu,” but added that it also “confirms Mr. Orozco’s innocence.”

The sheriff, who recently won the Republican nomination in his re-election bid, had pulled out of the race for a congressional seat after news broke of his falling out with Orozco. The two met online in 2006 and had an on-again, off-again relationship.

Babeu, known for his hardline stance on illegal immigration and border security, was considered a strong candidate in the 4th Congressional District. He said he decided to seek another term as sheriff because his deputy could not run and to keep a promise to constituents that he would maintain a continuity of leadership.

Orozco had volunteered to work with Babeu’s campaign and maintained his websites until Babeu hired a consultant to take them over. Even then, Babeu said Orozco was hesitant to hand over passwords and domain names. Orozco told authorities he worked hard on the website as an unpaid volunteer and wasn’t about to turn it over to a paid consultant.

The attorney general’s office had considered filing harassment and other charges against Orozco but determined that prosecution of misdemeanor counts wouldn’t be a good use of resources.

Babeu said he asked Orozco to keep private the details of their personal relationship. Babeu acknowledged he is gay after a picture of him shirtless was posted on a gay dating website.

“Mr. Orozco is pleased that the attorney general’s office has completed its investigation and is ready to move forward,” Horan said.

Babeu still faces another inquiry from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. That office is looking into whether Babeu and his top aides violated the federal Hatch Act, which makes it illegal for certain government workers to participate in political activities.

Reno police chief hires investigator for sex harassment case

The chief of police in Reno, Nev., has called in an independent investigator to look into internal allegations of officer misconduct and claims of corruption that emerged in a series of departmental probes and sent one veteran sergeant packing.

Sgt. James Stegmaier retired last month after Chief Steven Pitts recommended the 23-year member of the force be fired for allegedly pointing his loaded handgun at two fellow officers at police headquarters.

Stegmaier’s lawyer, Ken McKenna, says his client was targeted in retaliation for reporting corruption and misconduct within the Reno Police Department.

McKenna said in a statement this week that the misconduct included sexual harassment, “gay bashing” and command officers having sex while on duty.

“It is so blatant retaliation for whistle-blowing,” McKenna said. “It’s such an attempt to discredit him.”

Pitts told the Reno Gazette-Journal he launched four separate internal probes since June looking into those and other claims. He said he also recently hired a nationally recognized independent investigator to assist.

“There’s an allegation in (McKenna’s statement) about me that said when Pitts hears about this heads are going to roll,” Pitts said. “You’re damn right they are, and that’s exactly what we did … There will be accountability.”

The investigator, Ronald Glensor, is a former assistant Reno police chief considered an expert in community policing, Reno’s Chief Deputy Civil Attorney Tracy Chase said Thursday.

Glensor, who served on the Reno force from 1981-2009, has written  books on police supervision and problem solving, and consulted for more than 700 law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.

Chase said Glensor has begun his work, but she could not discuss any other details and did not know how long the internal investigation could last.

Stegmaier, 50, received a medal of meritorious service at a shooting inside a Reno Walmart in 2010. He retired last month rather than appeal his recommended firing and risk loss of some benefits, McKenna said.

The gun pointing incident was investigated by the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant District Attorney John Helzer confirmed he is reviewing the case, but has declined further comment.

McKenna said Stegmaier was simply practicing a “quick draw” technique when the two officers walked into the office. Pitts said his interviews with officers disputed that.

While many of Stegmaier’s allegations are broad, he identified some of his former colleagues by their positions – accusing his supervisor of sexual harassment, a deputy police chief of asking him to lie to internal affairs investigators and a member of the internal affairs team of sending a pornographic video to his cellphone.

He said several members of the department engaged in “gay bashing on a regular basis.”

“The whole thing just kind of went sideways, and Jim’s intent from the beginning was to never disclose any of this publicly and just to get an investigation (into the gun pointing incident) that was fair and unbiased,” McKenna told the Gazette-Journal.

Reno Deputy City Attorney Jack Campbell said Stegmaier tried to use the allegations against his colleagues as leverage in an attempt to get his job back.

“The only time he complained about this – quote, alleged corruption, unquote – is when he attempted to manipulate this department and otherwise avoid the discipline that was recommended to him, and it didn’t work,” Campbell said.

Campbell said the vast majority of claims made by Stegmaier are “untrue” and a “misrepresentation of what’s happened so far” based on evidence he’s reviewed from the ongoing internal affairs investigations.