The following is an e-mail I received from a woman who is obviously aggravated by the way her family has been treated by the Wisconsin DNR. What makes the letter so interesting is that the writer is a 28 year veteran of the Winnebago County Sheriff's Department. I've deleted the names of some of the DNR Wardens that she refers to (for the moment) unless they've been referred to by other sources. In light of many similar stories emerging about the Wisconsin DNR though, you can judge for yourself whether (1) her story rings true; and (2) whether it is way past time for the Legislature to rein in the excesses of the DNR. For additional background information, check out my February 12, 2006 "Wagner on the Web" posting "When the Wisconsin DNR Equals Mayberry, RFD".
To: Jeff Wagner
Re: Felony Pet Feeding AKA-- DNR Harassment/4th Amendment Violations
I recently learned of your program regarding the Barney Fife DNR. I believe my husband is the “Greenbush guy” in the DNR e-mail regarding John Stoik vs. DNR. If you think his story was something, relax and read our 4-year ordeal with the same Barney Fife’s.
Since 2002 my husband Paul and I have been having “issues” with the same wardens of the DNR. We own 26 acres in the Town of Greenbush surrounded by the Kettle Moraine State Forest.
In fall 2002 Warden ____ issued me a warning for the illegal feeding of deer. I explained to Warden _____ that I was feeding my peacock “Pete” and his seven girlfriends, plus 25 pet chickens. One week later Warden _____ observed our domestic fowl along with a few wild turkeys pecking at feed on the ground within 40 yards of our residence. ______ issued my husband a $200 citation for feeding wild animals. This citation was later dismissed by the Sheboygan County D.A. Office for lack of merit.
My husband tried to work with the wardens as to how we can “legally” feed our pets. No structure was suitable. We even moved the feeding operation to our deck in an effort to comply. Rodents moved in literally. They ate the firewall between our house and garage and took up residence in our eaves. I won’t even talk about the poop. So we moved the feeding back 40 yds. to the edge of the lawn, which by Administrative Code is legal. The fowl have a shelter but are not fed in there, as it is not sanitary.
For the next year (2003) the DNR wardens conducted multiple surveillance operations of our property to include aerial surveillance of our 26 acres and nighttime surveillance with night vision glasses just like real cops. The aerial observations stated there were no signs of feed piles. The report on the nighttime surveillance stated we were illuminating a feed pile, while in fact we were grilling out on our deck. And since when is it illegal to illuminate your yard?
It goes on…
The wardens then (2004) obtained a search warrant for our property based on false information from a “Confidential Informant” who stated that they saw corn in a wooden bunker. This bunker was at the edge of my flower garden and had not had any feed it for months. I don’t want to attract deer to my flower garden. The aerial reports stated they saw no feed in the wooden bunker. Any “informant” would have had to trespass on our property to see inside this bunker due to its location and still would have seen no feed in it.
When the wardens executed the search warrant they requested assistance from the Sheboygan County Sheriff’s Dept., as the wardens labeled my husband “a dangerous man” and they feared for their safety. Six wardens and two sheriff’s deputies surrounded our home. My husband was taken into custody and forced to strip to his underwear. The wardens wanted him handcuffed and put in the back of the squad car. The sheriff deputies declined to do this and stated they would just sit in our house with my husband and watch hunting shows.
The search warrant specified curtilage (outside area) surrounding the residence and shed and 26 acres only. Yet the wardens entered our shed, other outbuildings and enclosed tree stands. This was verified by snow tracks from the snowfall that morning. The search warrant produced no evidence of any illegal activity. Their own report stated that we were feeing domestic fowl. In spite of that information the wardens still issued my husband 4 citations for illegal feeding with fines of $1,272 and a 5- year loss of hunting privileges.
We requested reports from the DNR regarding the citations and search warrant through open records. The DNR denied the request. We had to hire an attorney and spent $4,000 in attorney fees to maintain my husband’s hunting privileges and feed our pets as we see fit on our own property. I thought I lived in The United States of America and I could do that, however it cost me $4,000 to have someone say “yes, you can”!! .
My husband was found not guilty on all counts in court based on the fact that we were feeding our domestic fowl. Isn’t that what I initially told Warden ______ in 2002? As we were leaving court our attorney said, “Be careful of him (Warden ______) he really has it in for you.”
Five days after the court found us not guilty Warden ______ and Park Ranger ______ drove past our residence and observed my husband operating his ATV on the edge of the road going from one of our driveways to the other. My husband was on a mission planting trees by the road so the Barney Fife’s can’t see into our property anymore. Warden ______ did not issue my husband a citation for the ATV violation at that time but Warden ______ did one week later. Do you think ______ is holding a grudge?
I am a lieutenant with the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office. Most of my 28-year career has been in investigations. I have had extensive training and experience in obtaining and executing search warrants and conducting proper police investigation of “real crime”. I have worked high profile homicide cases (Gary Hirte Eagle Scout Thrill Killer 2003). So I do know a little about police work.
As a result of the DNR’s search warrant and allegations of illegal activity I was the subject of an internal investigation at work. I could have been fired, but I don’t work for a Barney Fife agency. Neither my husband nor I would engage in any type of activity that would jeopardize my job and upcoming retirement.
Recent media attention has shown that the DNR is using similar tactics on other citizens. The John Stoik and Terrie Stangl incidents prompted me to come forward. A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper article printed a recent DNR e-mail from Warden Clutter stated “there’s a beer for anyone who can get the Greenbush guy and/or Adell guy….” The Greenbush guy is my husband. This is harassment plain and clear. Our issues with the DNR started in 2002 and continue in 2006. Enough is enough.
My point is…
I work for a law enforcement agency that has recently gone through layoffs due to budget limitations. Yet the DNR apparently has unlimited funds to conduct multiple surveillance operations utilizing a significant amount of manpower for CITATIONS!
I find this practice appalling.
The DNR wardens have violated my civil rights by the illegal search of my property and jeopardized my law enforcement career. They do not use proper police practices. Their demeanor as law enforcement officials is atrocious. I’m ashamed they are part of my profession. The Stangl and Stoik incidents prove that their vigilante tactics need to be stopped.
N6690 Hwy S – Rustic Road 63