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Hearing to be held in firing of DOJ officer

  • Associated Press
  • December 6, 2013 - 1:50 PM

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin's whistleblower law may have been violated when a special agent was fired after alleging that his boss was illegally making and selling guns, the state Department of Workforce Development said.

The state Department of Justice fired Dan Bethards in October. In December 2012 Bethards, who worked for 14 years as an undercover drug agent in the Division of Criminal Investigation, reported the alleged illegal activity of Jay Smith, the head of DCI's Superior office.

Bethards alleged that Smith was selling guns to other law enforcement officers, including Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, and Smith also possessed a stolen machine gun.

No charges were filed against Smith following a federal investigation.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported Friday (http://tiny.cc/oifo7w ) that DWD determined two complaints filed by Bethards should go to a hearing before an administrative law judge.

One complaint alleges DOJ retaliated against Bethards in June by placing him on administrative leave after a DOJ-hired psychologist found him ready to return to work after a medical leave. The second complaint charges that Bethards' termination in October was further illegal retaliation.

In both of those complaints, "there is probable cause to believe Wisconsin Department of Justice may have violated the Wisconsin Whistleblower Protection Law," DWD equal rights officer Gregory Straub wrote.

Straub concluded that "DOJ has not established that Bethards' allegations against Smith were false." He added that "Bethards' discharge was motivated, at least in part, by Bethards' disclosure."

DOJ spokesman Dean Stensberg declined to comment Friday.

One year later, Bethards said DOJ still has not interviewed him about his allegations against Smith, who continues to work for DOJ.

Meanwhile, Bethards said, his termination from DCI has made it impossible to find work in law enforcement.

"Literally, nobody will talk to me," Bethards said. "I'm essentially a dead man. That's the hardest thing to get over. A lot of those people — I thought they were my friends. It's a lonely place."

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