Rock County hired attorney to probe HR director
JANESVILLE Rock County paid an attorney $1,893 to investigate the former head of its human resources department.
Human Resources Director John Becker resigned before the investigation was complete, however, and no documents from the investigation are available to the public, Corporation Counsel Jeff Kuglitsch said.
No records exist to indicate why an investigation was necessary, Kuglitsch said. County officials would say only that the investigation was in response to rumors.
Becker wrote a letter of resignation dated Sept. 25, and that was his last day at work. The Gazette through the Wisconsin Open Records Law obtained the letter and an e-mail that Becker sent Kuglitsch and Administrator Craig Knutson the morning he resigned.
The e-mail indicates the three had discussed the resignation previously.
“As we discussed, I am to communicate my decision before 5 p.m. today. Would it work in your schedule for me to come to your office at 4:30? At that time, I intend to tender my resignation…” the e-mail reads.
Forty-two days earlier—Aug. 12—the county had hired former Corporation Counsel Tom Schroeder to assist the administrator’s office “with regard to an investigation into the conduct and/or alleged misconduct of John Becker,” according to the contract with Schroeder.
The investigation was triggered after Kuglitsch and Knutson heard “rumors about Becker,” Kuglitsch said.
Knutson said he might have gotten one “first-person” account.
“About all I can say is it was verbally brought to my attention that there was some concerns regarding how Mr. Becker related to or interacted with certain county staff,” Knutson said. “They were just comments, rumors that should be checked out.”
Schroeder interviewed four or five people, Knutson said. At that point, Knutson and Kuglitsch informed Becker of the complaints gathered during the investigation.
Becker denied any wrongdoing and asked for a few days to consider his options, Knutson said.
When asked, Knutson said the investigation was ongoing and incomplete when Becker resigned. Knutson said Becker was not forced to decide whether to quit or be fired because the investigation was not complete.
The investigation did not indicate any criminal activity had taken place, Knutson said.
Schroeder submitted an invoice to the county for $1,893 for work done between Aug. 12 and Sept. 28. The Gazette obtained a copy of the invoice after repeated requests filed under the open records law.
Schroeder was paid $75 per hour.
Kuglitsch has written and stated that no written complaints exist regarding Becker. In addition, the investigation did not produce any reports or memos, Kuglitsch has said.
Schroeder might have taken notes during his interviews, but those are not public documents, according to state statute.
The county did not document in writing the rumors or allegations about Becker, Kuglitsch and Knutson said.
That’s not unusual, Knutson said. The county wants employees who have concerns to feel comfortable sharing them in whatever method they prefer, Knutson said.
“Even when those concerns are verbally expressed, we take them seriously and follow up appropriately,” he said.