By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources disciplined several employees last year for alleged infractions, including sexual harassment, running a sex toy business on state time and posting insulting remarks about the public online, agency records show.
The records also indicate a ranger was fired for trying to use his badge to avoid a traffic citation. Another was suspended for involving a ride-along observer in a high-speed chase.
The agency sent 20 letters reprimanding, suspending or firing workers in 2014. The DNR, which employs about 2,300 workers, released 19 of the letters to The Associated Press as part of an open records request. It withheld the 20th letter because it said that worker is challenging its release in court.
The disciplined employees amount to less than 1 percent of the agency’s roughly 2,300 workers.
A February letter accuses Teague Prichard, a state lands specialist, of sexually harassing three female co-workers in a hotel bar in Appleton following a forestry meeting in January. The letter alleges he rubbed one of the women’s thighs and called her beautiful and sexy. He then began rubbing another co-worker’s back while simultaneously rubbing the third woman’s thigh. When the third woman commented on his conduct, Prichard allegedly suggested she was dressed inappropriately.
Prichard didn’t respond to email and voicemail messages seeking comment.
Arahseris Cerna, an employee at the DNR’s Sturtevant Service Center, was reprimanded in April for allegedly conducting personal business on the job. According to her letter, she worked on the side for a company that sells sex products during in-home gatherings and she passed out brochures and delivered items to DNR colleagues at the service center.
Another letter indicates Caitlin Carmody, an employee who answered the phone at the Wausau Service Center, was suspended for one day in August. According to the letter, Carmody posted comments on Facebook using her work computer on state time in June. One comment stated she hated her job and another series of posts made fun of calls she had received.
No listing for Cerna or Carmody could be found on the DNR’s website or in the state employee directory and no residential listings could be found for them. Neither call center had contact information for them.
Ranger Eric Wachdorf was fired in September for improperly using his DNR-issued badge to avoid a citation for a traffic violation, another letter shows. The letter doesn’t offer any additional details but online court records don’t list any traffic citations against Wachdorf. He didn’t respond to a voicemail left at what may be his home number.
Ranger Matthew Wilhelm was suspended for a day in December for improperly engaging in a high-speed pursuit of a vehicle in Palmyra in June with a ride-along observer in his vehicle, another letter said. The chase reached speeds of about 85 mph in foggy conditions with limited visibility, greatly increasing the risk of injury or death, the letter said. Wilhelm didn’t respond to an email or a voicemail left at his office.
Another letter shows that Robert Lauer, a fisheries worker who was suspended for five days in 2013 for punching a co-worker, was fired in July for failing to notify a supervisor he intended to take vacation time, arriving for work late and leaving early, sleeping overnight in the Asylum Bay Fish Station and using the station’s stove to cook his dinner. No residential listing for Lauer could be found.