On Wednesday, Nov. 9, Jack Sauer, Lafayette County Board Chairman, was cited with disorderly conduct as a result of an investigation by the Darlington Police Department into a meeting of the Lafayette County Land and Conservation Committee on Oct. 4.
The police report stated that Sauer was accused of making profane and ethnically charged comments during a heated conversation surrounding personnel matters. In addition to the citation, the United States Department of Agriculture has banned Sauer from re-entering their offices in Darlington.
Sauer’s lawyer, Robert Duxstad, advised Sauer not to comment. Duxstad was disappointed to learn the media had received a release of the police report before Sauer or he had.
“Whatever motivation Chief King has in attempting to try my client’s case in the press, this unprecedented release of information should not remove the presumption that Jack is innocent of the alleged misconduct,” Duxstad commented.
In reviewing the minutes of the meeting, Duxstad said, “They show Jack was speaking on behalf of Lafayette County farmers, asking the committee to address problems within the Lafayette County Farm Service Agency. There is no mention of anything Jack said or did that could be considered disorderly.”
He also commented that people who attended the meeting say Jack was not disorderly. Kriss Marion, county board member from Blanchardville, was present at the meeting and repeats what Duxstad said.
“I wish the exchange hadn’t gone the way it did, but in Jack’s defense, no one was threatened and no one got up from their chairs.”
Marion stated she did not support Sauer’s language, but she was in complete agreement with the basic sentiment that the level of frustration in Lafayette County with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) department must be addressed.
This all came about when members of the state FSA department, Patricia Edelburg, State Executive Director; Randy Kunsman, FSA District Director; Warren Hanson, Administrative Officer and Brandon Soldner, Statewide CRP Program Specialist, came to the meeting to address the complaints made against Monica Yates-Olsen, Lafayette County Executive Director. In the meeting minutes, it states that Sauer had received several complaints from farmers. Marion also stated she had received calls.
“I got phone calls from people in my district asking me to put pressure on the FSA office to improve their relationships with farmers. I hear over and over again that phone calls are not returned for weeks, that when farmers visit the office to get paperwork completed in person, there is no one in the office who can help them but the director who is frequently not there,” Marion said.
Reimbursement checks come late, Yates-Olsen is unavailable and unfriendly to work with and Marion also has heard that she’s threatened people when she’s been criticized. Sauer commented Yates-Olsen ‘needs to be gone’. He stated he had started a petition in April but wants to know who to send it to and what should be done with it to get action on it. He said that Yates-Olsen never comes to the counter when he is there.
Sauer asked who has the right to fire her and who should be contacted to resolve these issues. Edelburg said they would need the team to meet. Sauer asked again who was responsible and what would be done. Edelburg said they have been hearing the complaints and want to get to the bottom of it.
Duxstad comments that in the minutes, there is no mention of Sauer saying or doing anything that could be considered disorderly.
“At no time during the meeting did the chairman of the committee tell Jack that he was out of order. If an employee is so thin-skinned as to summon the police when a member of the public says he won’t rest until the employee is fired, maybe they shouldn’t hold public employment,” Duxstad mentioned.
Marion stated that Sauer did raise his voice and did curse and use some very regrettable language. She was dismayed by his outburst and embarrassed by some of the language used but she felt the citation and banning him from the USDA building is completely uncalled for.
“I think that once again, this is preventing county public servants from doing their job. I think we need a new FSA leadership in Lafayette County and I think that we need to move ahead with re-building the conservation department’s relationship with farmers, for the sake of our shared natural resources,” Marion said.
Duxstad said unfortunately there is no recording of the public meeting so all that can be relied on is the memory of those present as to what words Sauer may have used. He said even the police report, which was used to cite Sauer does not violate any law and does not reflect what others claim occurred.
“Jack’s right to express his opinion and the right of every citizen to seek redress from their government is protected by the First Amendment. Jack’s fellow citizens should not prejudge this case.” Duxstad said the citizens should question the motivations of Chief King and the unwillingness of the Farm Service Agency to accept any criticism of its operations.
Yates-Olsen did not wish to make a comment.