TOWN OF CAMPBELL, Wis. (AP) – A tea party activist has accused the police chief of a western Wisconsin town of retaliating against him by creating accounts on pornographic and dating websites in the activist’s name.
Town of Campbell board members placed Chief Tim Kelemen on paid leave during a special meeting Thursday. Kelemen’s attorney, Jim Birnbaum, says the move is routine and in no way implies guilt.
The town and police have been in conflict for months with tea party activists who object to an ordinance that prohibited them from demonstrating against President Barack Obama on the Interstate 90 pedestrian overpass. Activist Greg Luce and other tea party members have filed a lawsuit in federal court saying the ordinance prohibits free speech.
Kelemen said the ordinance addresses safety concerns.
Birmbaum said tea party members sent harassing emails and called town and police officials for months after the ordinance passed.
Kelemen is accused of using his work and home computers to create online accounts in Luce’s name, according to the La Crosse Tribune. He initially denied his conduct during a recent interview with investigators, according to police reports.
Campbell Town Board Chairman Scott Johnson said members were not considering discipline before a prosecutor has looked at the case and decided whether charges are warranted.
Kelemen will remain on paid leave indefinitely, regardless of the prosecutor’s charging decision, while the town investigates, town attorney Brent Smith said.
Hopefully, that investigation gives context to the chief’s conduct, Birnbaum said.
“There’s a big difference between a lapse in judgment and a crime that could end a career,” he said.
Luce was also seeking damages against the chief alleging he violated his right to petition without retaliation or invasion of privacy.
Luce’s attorney Erin Mersino told The Associated Press Friday that putting the chief on leave was the responsible thing to do.
“It is highly concerning what has occurred here,” she said.