Complaints against Whitewater police chief found lacking in merit

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Sarah Zimmermann | July 29, 2015

WHITEWATER—Complaints against the Whitewater Police Chief were determined to be either unfounded or lacking in merit during a Whitewater Police and Fire Commission meeting Tuesday night.

Jason Kraayvanger in May filed a complaint with the city, alleging Police Chief Lisa Otterbacher sent her children to underage alcohol parties as confidential informants and had them contact law enforcement.

Kraayvanger withdrew his complaint after receiving a death threat, according to the investigative report written by Delavan attorney Steven Wassel. Whitewater City Manager Cameron Clapper and City Attorney Wallace McDonell told Wassel to complete the investigation despite the complaint being withdrawn.

Police and Fire Commission President Jan Bilgen Craggs read the report aloud at the meeting Tuesday. It indicates Wassel found no evidence to support the allegation. Wassel included in the report that the use of confidential informants is a legitimate and legal law enforcement technique.

Kraayvanger filed his complaint with the city council May 5 after collecting what he said where 100 signatures on a petition seeking an investigation.

Otterbacher did not speak Tuesday night, but told the city council May 5 the police should not be above anybody.

“Our integrity is truly the foundation of my family," Otterbacher told the council May 5. "In my heart, as Lisa Otterbacher, a police chief and a mother, I believe my integrity and the integrity of my department and my family is on solid ground. But I ask you not to take my word, because I believe the community should police the police as much as the police police the police."

Kraayvanger also alleged in his withdrawn complaint that Otterbacher's son was selling drugs, driving his truck on a baseball field at school and hosting underage alcohol parties without consequences. He said Otterbacher's daughter received deferential treatment after a traffic crash.

Wassel found no basis for the allegation that Otterbacher's son was selling drugs and learned the son was disciplined by the school after the truck incident, according to the report.

An off-duty Walworth County sheriff's deputy discovered Otterbacher's son and his friends drinking underage. Otterbacher disciplined her son and notified Clapper and Bilgen Craggs, although “she had no obligation to do so” according to the report.
“Chief Otterbacher's transparency and candor were far greater than what was to be expected of her,” Wassel wrote in the report.

Otterbacher had no control over the citations given by the Walworth County sheriff's deputies who responded to the daughter's car accident, according to the report.
Wassel wrote that there has been no “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” regarding incidents in Otterbacher's personal or professional life that he observed.

“(Chief Otterbacher) has constantly held herself and the members of her department to a standard that can withstand public scrutiny,” Wassel wrote in the report.

The police and fire commission voted to accept the report.

Bilgen Craggs also requested to have the report shared during the next city council meeting Aug. 4.

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