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Ashwaubenon officer, Paulowski, returns after leave

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

ASHWAUBENON – A village public safety officer placed on paid administrative leave for almost two months returned to duty April 9 after an investigation concluded allegations of disorderly conduct/domestic violence against him were unsubstantiated, an open records request by The Press Times revealed.

According to records The Press Times obtained from both the Ashwaubenon Public Safety Department and the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Office, Eric Paulowski was placed on paid administrative leave  Feb. 18, three days after an ex-girlfriend asked the sheriff’s office for assistance to stand by at her residence in Seymour for when Paulowski would come to remove personal property.

Eric Paulowski

While on paid administrative leave, Paulowski was not authorized to perform any official duties as a law enforcement officer, required to turn in department-issued equipment and not permitted in the secure areas of the department without being accompanied by a supervisor.

The sheriff’s office reports obtained by The Press Times state the ex-girlfriend decided in late December it was in the best interest of her and Paulowski to end their relationship, and she alleged she was fearful of Paulowski’s personality.

The ex-girlfriend stated Paulowski had a “horrible temper” and feared him returning when it was not an established time frame, according to sheriff’s office reports.

Though Paulowski was never physically violent with her, she said his level of intimidation was of concern to her and she requested the sheriff’s office to be present when he was onsite, the reports state.

She alleged in late December Paulowski had her backed up against a wall and told her to hit him.

When officers from the sheriff’s office interviewed Paulowski on the day he was placed on administrative leave, he acknowledged he yelled at his ex-girlfriend.

Paulowski said there was an incident in late December when his ex-girlfriend called him names and he yelled at her in her face, but there was no physical contact between him and his ex-girlfriend during the argument at the residence in Seymour.

He said he tried to walk away during their arguments, but his ex-girlfriend would often follow him, as was the case in late December when he turned around, got in her face and yelled at her, the reports state.

Paulowski said his ex-girlfriend yelled in his face she was going to hit him when he responded by telling her to hit him.

He denied any violent physical contact with his ex-girlfriend during their relationship and also said he didn’t believe his yelling at her rose to the level of disorderly conduct.

Following the interview with Paulowski, the sheriff’s office reports state the ex-girlfriend informed an officer she did not want to press charges against Paulowski for any previous incidents, including the one in late December, and just wanted his belongings out of her residence.

No charges or discipline

An April 6 memo from Outagamie County Assistant District Attorney Julie DuQuaine to the sheriff’s office stated she reviewed the reports and “determined that a formal criminal referral is not warranted in this matter.”

Paulowski’s paid administrative leave ended April 9 when he was returned to duty.

A letter provided to Paulowski from Ashwaubenon Public Safety Chief Brian Uhl stated the public safety department’s internal investigation, which took place as a result of the sheriff’s office investigation, determined the allegations against Paulowski were not substantiated.

“This matter is now concluded as of this time; however, please be advised of the possibility of further investigation if any new evidence is provided related to these allegations,” Uhl said to Paulowski. “In the event that occurs, you will of course be provided the opportunity to respond along with any due process rights.”

Uhl declined to provide The Press Times with a copy of the department’s internal investigation in response to the open records requests for copies of all records related to Paulowski being placed on paid administrative leave.

Aaron Halstead, an attorney representing the Ashwaubenon Public Safety Officers’ Association, said the allegations against Paulowski, who has represented the union as its president, were not found to have merit and didn’t cross the threshold for charges, and no discipline was warranted against him.

Halstead said allegations made by the ex-girlfriend against Paulowski amounted to a “personal vendetta based on a previous relationship.”

Email notice criticized

The notification about Paulowski’s paid administrative leave was done with a Feb. 18 email from Uhl to the public safety notification group, as well as Village President Mary Kardoskee, Village Manager Joel Gregozeski and Village Attorney Tony Wachewicz.

The email stated Paulowski was questioned by the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Office, which would be consulting with the county district attorney’s office on possible charges, as well as the public safety department conducting an internal investigation.

Halstead said the union believes there was “no need to disseminate this information to everyone and, even if something needed to be communicated that this level of detail was not required.”

“Assuming Eric is never charged, or even if so if he’s never convicted, the information shared here will unnecessarily have a permanent impact on his reputation,” he said.

Halstead described how the notification was handled as a “leak,” and he asked Wachewicz why public safety officers were not ordered to keep this information private.

“For example, did the village anticipate that some officers may share this email with others, including their spouses?” Halstead asked Wachewicz. “How will the village respond if there is a public records request for this email from, e.g., Allison Swanson Buckley?”

Wachewicz said the email did not provide specific details concerning the allegations, but did provide enough information to understand the basis for Paulowski being placed on paid administrative leave.

“The village has the right to communicate with its employees when it comes to the operation of the department and the safety and security of it in service to the community,” he said.

Swanson Buckley – the former village manager who resigned last July, five months after the public safety union announced a no-confidence vote against her – is married to public safety officer Kevin Buckley.

She has a defamation lawsuit pending in Brown County Circuit Court against the union, Paulowski and the union’s secretary, Melanie Lovato.

A jury trial in the case is scheduled for Aug. 22-26, 2022.

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