Swift County deputy is under investigation
BENSON -- A Swift County sheriff's deputy is being investigated for violating a harassment restraining order in two counties. He faces a misdemeanor charge in one county and the matter is pending in another. A misdemeanor charge of violating a ha...
BENSON -- A Swift County sheriff's deputy is being investigated for violating a harassment restraining order in two counties. He faces a misdemeanor charge in one county and the matter is pending in another. A misdemeanor charge of violating a harassment restraining order has been filed against Bruce Kenneth Nelson, 57, of Appleton Swift County in Chippewa County District Court.
Nelson is scheduled to make his first court appearance on the charge Monday.
Judy Kay Olson, with whom Nelson had a relationship, filed for a harassment restraining order against Nelson in late August in Chippewa County, and the order was granted.
The criminal complaint against Nelson alleges that on Sept. 17, after Olson left a concert in Appleton, she was followed back to Montevideo by Nelson.
The complaint says Olson noticed that a truck was following her on her way home, and when she got to a stoplight in Montevideo, she recognized the driver as Nelson.
After she parked in front of her home, she said, Nelson drove by her home twice.
Swift County Sheriff Scott Mattison said the Douglas County Attorney's Office is handling the case for Swift County.
The office is reviewing an allegation against Nelson that the restraining order was violated in Swift County that same night. Charges in that incident haven't been filed against Nelson at present, Mattison said.
Douglas County Attorney Christopher Karpan was out of the office Thursday and could not be reached for comment.
Nelson has been on administrative leave from the Swift County Sheriff's Department with pay since July 31 after allegations of threats and domestic abuse were made against him. Administrative leave is a non-punitive status.
The July incident didn't result in any charges. The Douglas County attorney's office, who Swift County hired as special counsel for the case, declined to charge Nelson, saying there wasn't enough proof to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Olson had filed for an order for protection against Nelson in Swift County in August, but the application was denied by Judge Jon Stafsholt because, he wrote, the "allegations were not proved." She had also filed an order for protection against Nelson in Chippewa County, but later dropped it.
An order for protection is meant to restrain a party from committing acts of domestic abuse. The order can exclude the person from being in or near a victim's residence and work, among other restrictions. The court must find there has been abuse, threats of abuse or assault in the past in order to grant an order for protection.
A harassment restraining order -- the type of order granted to Olson in late August -- prohibits contact and acts of harassment by a perpetrator. The court must find there have been acts of harassment in the past in order to grant a harassment restraining order.
On Tuesday, the Swift County Board closed its meeting to discuss Nelson, Mattison said. After the meeting reopened, the County Board decided to retain legal counsel to help the Sheriff's Department with possible disciplinary action.
No decision on whether to discipline Nelson has been made, and Mattison said he does not know when he would make a decision. Mattison would recommend any disciplinary action to the board, which would make the final decision.
In determining disciplinary action, Mattison said he will consult with legal counsel, employee policy manuals, labor agreements and state statutes.
When asked if termination is a disciplinary option, Mattison said it wouldn't be appropriate to say specifically if termination is being considered.
"It would be inappropriate to wish for a certain outcome or predict a certain outcome until we've done everything appropriately," Mattison said.
Mattison said a person is innocent until proven guilty.
When asked if he would wait to make a disciplinary decision until there is a conviction or acquittal on the misdemeanor charge against Nelson, he said he didn't know.
"That and a range of other issues are being reviewed by our legal counsel," Mattison said.
The department usually has five full-time deputies, but has been operating with four since Nelson was put on leave. That has created more work for the department's employees and creates a safety issue because deputies are working alone more often, Mattison said.
But he said it's similar to what would happen in any department its size if an employee was put on leave.
"I understand the frustration that many people are feeling that the matter is taking as long as it's taking," Mattison said. "We're doing everything we can at this point to protect the interests of Swift County and to ensure our employee is treated appropriately and legally."
Nelson declined to comment about the allegations and the county's closed door meeting.