(The following statement was released by Crawford County District Attorney Tim Baxter. It explains the reason for an investigation of Crawford County Highway Commissioner Dennis Pellock’s use of FEMA funds following the 2007 and 2008 flooding and the district attorney’s decision to not charge Pellock with a crime related to the use of those funds.)
In April, 2012, a now-former employee of the Crawford County Highway Department brought forth concerns that Crawford County Highway Commissioner Dennis Pellock may have fraudulently obtained FEMA funds from the 2007-08 flooding in Crawford County in order to fix roads and bridges in Crawford County. These concerns were relayed to Crawford County Sheriff Dale McCullick who immediately sought the assistance of the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), as Sheriff McCullick felt it would be an inherent conflict of interest.
Over the course of the next several months, DCI Agents performed their investigation. In September, those reports were presented to the Crawford County District Attorneys Office to review for potential criminal charges.
Other DAs review
After receipt and review of the file, District Attorney Tim Baxter sent the entire investigative file to two other District Attorneys for their review. “With the nature of the allegations, and the subject of these allegations being the County Highway Commissioner, I felt it best that a couple of other prosecutors take a look at the file”. Baxter sought two District Attorneys from smaller counties a good distance from, and with no ties or connections with, Crawford County. “I had already read the file and had come up with my own opinions and conclusions. But, I felt that this case warranted an independent evaluation from other long-time, well trusted and respected District Attorneys”, Baxter said. “Since I had already read the file, I wanted to compare their findings and opinions with mine. Neither knew what I had concluded before I sent it to them”. Baxter stated that District Attorneys Angela Beranek from Barron County and Ray Pelrine from Door County agreed to review the case.
Baxter stated that after he spoke with both D.A.’s Beranek and Pelrine, it was determined that they all had come up with the same conclusion: no state criminal charges should be filed. “The evidence that was presented to us simply did not lead us to believe that we could prove a criminal case against Mr. Pellock beyond a reasonable doubt. We are not saying that ‘nothing happened’, however. We just feel that the quantum of evidence is not sufficient to carry a criminal action through to a guilty verdict”, Baxter indicated.
After these conclusions were reached, however, one other issue remained. “We all agreed that the alleged victim in this case would be FEMA – the Federal Government – and we do not have jurisdiction within the state court system to address this situation” said Baxter.
Baxter explained that when there is an allegation, or there is evidence, that a Federal agency, such as FEMA, has been defrauded, or “scammed”, those cases have to be handled in Federal Court. Baxter said that although no state criminal action will be pursued, there may be action taken by the Federal Authorities.
“I have forwarded this case on to the United States Attorneys Office for the Western District of Wisconsin, located in Madison. Prosecutors in the U.S. Attorneys will review the case for Federal charges against Mr. Pellock”, Baxter said. “If Mr. Pellock is to be prosecuted for any potential wrongdoings based on this investigation, it will be in the Federal Courts. It is up to the U.S. Attorneys office to make that decision. The case is in their hands.”