VernonReporter

Documents show Vernon County Chief Deputy placed on leave and patrol duty for harassing co-worker over election, perceived cooperation with a previous investigation

According to documents released by the Vernon County Sheriffs Office and the Vernon County Corporation Counsel’s office, an investigation into Chief Deputy Nathan Campbell has been completed and shows Campbell was placed on leave and patrol duty because of harassment of a coworker over the Sheriff’s election and a previous investigation into conduct in 2022.

A disciplinary letter sent to Campbell from Sheriff Roy Torgerson on March 9 of this year references an incident in which Campbell is accused of verbally harassing Lead Administrative Assistant Morgan Paulson over the sheriff’s election. The letter states Paulson felt “harassed, intimidated and retaliated against for her support of my opponent”. Torgerson was elected as Vernon County Sheriff in November after defeating Vernon County Sheriff’s Investigator Scott Bjerkos in the Republican spring primary and then defeating Independents Janice Turben, Phillip Welch and Joe Keenan in the general election in November. Torgerson was officially sworn in on Jan. 3. Campbell was chosen as Chief Deputy Sheriff under outgoing Sheriff John Spears in 2011.

Vernon County Sheriff Roy Torgerson

The disciplinary letter goes on to say the Paulson accused Campbell of harassing her over cooperation in a previous investigation in 2022 stating Campbell accused “her of sharing private appointments from your calendar.” The letter says Paulson felt intimidated due to her perceived cooperation with that previous investigation. The letter states that Paulson felt so intimidated by Campbell that she asked not to meet with him alone and she later left the department for another county position, but it is unclear how much the incident played in her departure.

Campbell was placed on paid administrative leave for violating two department policies (1004.4 and 315.3.5) regarding intimidation of Paulson for her perceived participation in an investigation and engaging in a protected activity, specially “perceived support of a political opponent”. Another memo from the Vernon County Human Resources office said Campbell’s conduct also violated two county policies regarding harassment and employee conduct.

As a result of the findings Campbell was placed on paid administrative leave on January 20, 2023 and returned to duty on March 27, 2023. Campbell retained his title and pay as Chief Deputy but he was placed on patrol duty when he returned and is expected to remain on patrol duty for four months. As part of the discipline Campbell received a formal written reprimand, was required to undergo remedial management training, undergo performance reviews and received a formal warning that future violations of policy could be grounds for further discipline, demotion or termination.

It may be worth noting that during Campbell’s leave the title of Under-sheriff title was taken from Campbell and placed with another officer in the department. When asked about the switch Vernon County Corporation Counsel Michael Windle stated “The Undersheriff is a statutorily-required position who acts as Sheriff in the event that the Sheriff’s position is vacant or the Sheriff is unable to perform his duties. Sheriff Spears elected to have one person serve as both Chief Deputy and Undersheriff, but Sheriff Torgerson has chosen differently.”

When asked what happens after that four month disciplinary period, if Campbell will return to his role as Chief Deputy, Windle stated “What duties the Chief Deputy performs is a discretionary decision by the Sheriff, so any duties Mr. Campbell performs are, by the nature of his position, the duties of the Chief Deputy. The patrol duties are expected to end after the four month period, however.”

Chief Deputy Campbell reached out to us to comment on the disciplinary action and the circumstances surrounding the incident in question.

A complaint was filed against me from a meeting I had with a former employee at end of November 2022. I met with the previous Sheriff, who knew I was going to be talking with the employee about some issues I was seeing at that time. The meeting with the employee was only meant to be a discussion with no disciplinary consequences involved. I believe some things from the discussion were taken out of context. The complaint was filed approximately a month and a half after the meeting and when our new Sheriff was in office.


The former Human Resources director recommended serious disciplinary action previous to any investigation or due process. No one talked to me or asked me questions previous to this recommendation. The day I was placed on paid administrative leave was her final day with the County.


I accepted the disciplinary action taken by the Sheriff because I wanted this situation resolved. I do not agree with the charges which were against me but wanted to move on.”
Sincerely,
Nathan Campbell

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