UPDATE: Letter outlines why Trempealeau Co. officials upset with DA
WHITEHALL, Wis. (AP) - -
Trempealeau County officials are raising concerns about the job performance of the county's district attorney.
The county's Executive and Finance Committee has sent a letter, which can be read below, asking Gov. Scott Walker for help with DA Taavi McMahon.
According to the Oct. 5 letter, the committee of county board members believes McMahon, an elected official, is "derelict in his duties."
A Walker spokesman said Wednesday the governor's staff encouraged the committee to discuss the issue with the county's corporation counsel.
The letter said McMahon closed his office on Sept. 15 for the funeral of Jackson County DA Gerald Fox. McMahon reportedly ordered his staff, who are county employees, to attend the funeral and suspended an employee who refused to attend.
McMahon told the newspaper he cannot comment on personnel matters.
Dear Governor Walker:
I am submitting this information on behalf of the Trempealeau County Executive/Finance Committee. Recent actions by Trempealeau County District Attorney Taavi McMahon have caused considerable concern. Since DA McMahon is an elected official, we are reaching out to the Governor’s Office for assistance and/or guidance.
As you are aware, the District Attorney from Jackson County, Gerald Fox, recently passed away. The day prior to Gerald’s funeral, it came to the County’s attention that DA McMahon planned to close his office for Gerald’s funeral and require his staff to attend the funeral. Trempealeau County Corporation Counsel had a telephone conversation with DA McMahon indicating that he could not close his office or require his staff to attend the funeral. DA McMahon advised Corporation Counsel that he was going to do those things despite the conversation. On the day of Mr. Fox’s funeral, September 15, 2017, DA McMahon followed through with his decision to close his office and require that his office staff, who are County employees, to attend the funeral. The staff in his office advised DA McMahon that they were not planning to attend the funeral and would remain at the office and perform their work. DA McMahon then advised his staff that it was not an option for them to remain in the office and work. He was closing the office and locking the door and no one was allowed to remain in the office. Again, staff indicated that they were not planning to go to the funeral and wanted to stay and work. DA McMahon became increasingly more agitated and gave options to either attend the funeral or face suspension. At one point, DA McMahon stated that they could work from home, however, Trempealeau County does not have a work from home policy for County employees. In addition, the staff cannot complete their work from home considering the nature of their work. They need to physically be present in the DA’s office to perform their work. One of the office staff agreed to go to the funeral as she was afraid she would lose her job if she did not go. One other office staff member, the office manager/paralegal in the office, continued to refuse to go to the funeral. DA McMahon became increasingly agitated and the employee went to Human Resources for assistance with the situation. The Human Resources Director came to the DA’s office and witnessed much of what occurred. Because of the high tension in the situation and the threat of suspension, the Human Resources Director suggested that the employee leave the office until things cooled down. DA McMahon ultimately suspended this employee, revoked her access to the State computer system so she could not perform any work and then had the locks changed on the office doors so that no one could enter the office while it was closed on the day of the funeral.
Due to the situation, Human Resources advised the suspended employee to remain at home on administrative paid leave until we could arrange a meeting with DA McMahon to discuss the matter and work out a resolution. The County had, and continues to have, significant concerns regarding the instability of DA McMahon based on his actions as well as retaliatory actions being taken by DA McMahon against the office employee. To date, DA McMahon has had limited contact with anyone regarding this matter. He continues to claim that the office employee abandoned her job when that clearly is not the case. Attempts have been made to set up a meeting with DA McMahon, the office employee and Board members to discuss and resolve this matter, however, DA McMahon has failed to attend any meeting or reschedule any meeting to resolve this matter. In the meantime, his office continues to struggle because they are short staffed. The County does not feel comfortable having the employee return to work without meeting with DA McMahon first as we feel that it is a hostile work environment and we feel that this employee would be retaliated against based on what has transpired over the past few weeks.
Since this situation has occurred, more information has come to light regarding DA McMahon. Based on information that the Committee has learned, we do not believe that DA McMahon is adequately performing the duties of the DA’s office as he is required to do. He is rarely in his office performing functions of the DA. His staff and Assistant DA are left to make sure that the office operates and cases are prosecuted. It is our understanding that law enforcement in Trempealeau County have little confidence in his abilities as DA. Despite DA McMahon rarely being in the office, he has recently accepted 40 cases from Jackson County to prosecute due to the passing of Gerald Fox. While this is admirable, DA McMahon is not prosecuting these cases, he is leaving it up to his staff to handle these matters despite their enormous workload. In addition, DA McMahon took on the prosecution of a case in Bayfield, Wisconsin. He has used Trempealeau County employees to assist with the prosecution which takes them away from their work in Trempealeau County. While we understand and agree that assistance between counties is necessary under certain circumstances, it does seem peculiar that DA McMahon would agree to prosecute a case so far away from Trempealeau County particularly when utilizing County resources.
Another matter that has come to the Committee’s attention since this incident is DA McMahon using County resources to purchase a laptop computer. We have confirmed that he purchased a laptop with County resources and our understanding is that he uses this laptop for significant personal use despite containing private and sensitive information, including information protected by HIPAA. Again, this is an ongoing investigation into the matter.
Again, the Executive Finance Committee is contacting you as we believe that DA McMahon is not performing the duties of DA as he was elected to do. We believe that he is derelict in his duties and, since he is an elected official, we are reaching out to the Governor’s office for some assistance and guidance on the matter.
Sincerely, Trempealeau County Executive/Finance Committee