Sheriff Travis Hakes Issues Statement

Press Release from Chippewa County Sheriff Travis Yakes.

Sheriff Travis Hakes Issues Statement

CHIPPEWA COUNTY -- The following press release was submitted to DrydenWire by Chippewa County Sheriff Travis Yakes today and can be read in its entirety below.

Related: Chippewa County Board Of Supervisor’s Statement Regarding Sheriff Travis Hakes


Sheriff Travis Hakes’ Statement Regarding ‘Investigation' Preented To County Board

I have had an opportunity to review the latest report presented to the Chippewa County Board in closed session. As a taxpaying citizen of Chippewa County, I am utterly disgusted by the absolute waste of resources spent on yet another agenda-driven report meant to discredit my name. It is clear that Attorney Jill Pedigo Hall used this second report as an opportunity to defend her reputation and that of her firm and to continue to profit at the expense of Chippewa County taxpayers. There are many inaccurate statements in this report that show Pedigo Hall’s lack of understanding of the role of the Sheriff elected by and directly responsible to the people. The Chippewa County Board has spent over 12 hours in closed session and well over $100,000 on this “investigation” that has spanned over 8 months. That’s time and money that could have been much better spent meeting the public safety needs of the people of Chippewa County. I would like to note the following:

  • Chippewa County did not have a written representation agreement with the law firm Von Briesen & Roper until after such a contract was requested by my counsel via an open records request. The Chippewa County Board was presented with the first 87-page report on September 19, 2023. The retainer agreement was signed September 26, 2023. In other words, Attorney Jill Pedigo Hall was essentially given a blank check for the first 3 months of what she did.
  • During the second portion of this “investigation” I offered, through my retained counsel to respond to Attorney Jill Pedigo Hall’s questions in writing so that my words could not be twisted. She declined that reasonable offer. I repeatedly offered to speak directly to the Chippewa County Board to address the inaccuracies in the reports. Outside of the 10 minutes of public comment I was given to address them, they spurned my offers.
  • In the second report Attorney Pedigo Hall attempts to defend her claim that I made more money on real estate transactions in my first year of office than I did the year prior. She cites figures from the Coldwell Banker website, who is not even my broker, that indicate I had sales of $1.45M in 2022 and $1.75M in 2023. My actual sales were $3.68M in 2022 and $1.83M in 2023. This is just one example of the inaccuracies in Pedigo Hall’s report. According to District Attorney Newell, “the law clearly allows the Sheriff to have outside employment.”
  • Attorney Pedigo Hall filed broad open records requests related to my previous employment. One such request asked for “all records regarding, relating to, or referring to Officer Travis Hakes” during my 10-year career there. Another request yielded a file containing over 260 pages of material ranging from meeting minutes to time sheets to retirement information. Taxpayers were on the hook for the time Attorney Pedigo Hall spent collecting, reviewing, and writing her findings on these massive requests, in the amount of $275-$325 per hour.
  • The case in the City of Chetek that’s the subject of the Brady/Giglio disclosure was a delicate situation that involved a victim who had life-or-death concerns and who had a desperate need to remain anonymous. As I tried to ease her fears, I admittedly did a poor job of articulating state law regarding what would happen to the body camera footage that was being recorded. I did not mean to suggest to her that body camera footage could be deleted or modified in any improper way. And to be perfectly clear the body camera footage was never deleted in this case, at no time did I ever intend to delete it and in fact I referenced it in my written report, which is hardly how one would alter or destroy a record.
  • The County Board’s statement mentioned the “real-world consequences” of the Brady/Giglio disclosures coming to fruition in the Mitchell Ludtke case. While it’s true that this information was disclosed in the courtroom, it appeared to have no bearing on the outcome of the case. Ludtke pled no contest to second degree recklessly endangering safety, fleeing an officer, and an OWI the same week the topic was discussed in court. The court accepted his plea and found him guilty.
  • While there were numerous factors that played a role in my departures from the City of Chetek and the Village of Elk Mound, I continue to maintain positive working relationships with community leaders there. District Attorney Newell noted in his report, “[Chetek Police] Chief Ambrozaitis stated that he supports Travis 100% and does not believe that Travis was talking about the destruction of evidence.” In his statement to the County Board on October 10, 2023, former Elk Mound Village President, Tom Gilbert, said, “Travis was good at sniffing out improprieties, even in our small village, and pointed things out. When I was President, there were changes that had to be made, and that’s no way to make friends with the establishment in a small town, but he did the right thing.” And further, “When he chose to leave [Elk Mound], it was our loss.”

While I have been highly critical of this “investigation”, and rightfully so, I want to acknowledge some of the positive changes that have come about because of it. We created and continue to utilize our Peer Support Team to assist with the on-boarding of new employees, as well as the mental well-being of our staff. In my role as Sheriff, I have come to understand the limitations of my ability to fulfill all roles for all individuals, necessitating a more effective delegation of responsibilities. Furthermore, I have gained insight into the importance of articulating my viewpoints with precision, recognizing that my statements may not always be interpreted as intended. The lessons I’ve taken from this experience will help me lead the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office more effectively.

To the employees of the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office, thank you for your cooperation and dedication during this challenging time. You did not deserve to be subjected to this charade, yet you continued to perform your duties with the utmost professionalism each and every day. I am proud of the level of dedication and service you provide to the people of Chippewa County.

To the people of Chippewa County, thank you for putting your trust in me as your Sheriff. I came into this Office with big, bold ideas on how to move our Office into a new era of community-based policing. I am human, and I sometimes make mistakes, but I always try to do the right thing in the interest of public safety. I will work hard every day to make you proud that I’m your Sheriff. As always, my door is always open, and my phone is always on should you have any concerns you’d like to discuss with me personally. I look forward to continuing to effectively lead the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office.

- Sheriff Travis Hakes

Last Update: Feb 29, 2024 11:03 am CST

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