Further proof, if any were needed, that the cover-up is often worse than the crime comes from the desk of former Dane County Judge Moria Krueger, the hearing examiner in a Police and Fire Commission proceeding against Madison Police Officer Michael Grogan.
"It is conceivable that had Michael Grogan forthrightly owned up to his misconduct on December 19, 2004, and fully cooperated with the investigation, he could have been ordered to receive treatment and suffered a lengthy suspension, rather than termination," writes Krueger in her report recommending the latter option. "That is far from what happened, however. Through his multiple lies he has compounded his misdeeds so that he cannot be trusted in an occupation that is often described as a 'position of trust.'"
Krueger's 35-page report, released to Isthmus on Friday morning in response to an open records request, is not the final word on Grogan's fate. The PFC has given the parties until next Thursday, Jan. 10, to comment on Krueger's report. Then the five-member citizen body will decide whether to accept her findings and recommendations.
Grogan was suspended with pay in January 2005, shortly after he drove his car into a ditch and broke into a stranger's home, apparently intoxicated, thinking it was his own. As reported by Isthmus ("Accused Cop Returns Fire," 4/26/07), Grogan aggressively fought the department's efforts to terminate him, leveling accusations of impropriety against the chief investigator. The department deemed these accusations baseless.
Since his suspension, Grogan has received $258,269 in salary and benefits.
Krueger, whose own clip file includes a drunk-driving conviction, documents what she feels are a series of apparently false representations made by Grogan subsequent to this incident. (Grogan claimed his behavior was the result of a head injury he failed to mention at the time of his arrest.)
For instance, Krueger contrasts Grogan's claimed encounter with a vicious attacking dog with witness testimony that he patted the friendly pooch on the head: "If he is willing to lie about these things, he is unlikely to have any compunction about making up facts about his drinking or head injury."
Krueger also lists a number of suspiciously convenient memory lapses on Grogan's part, including how his car ended up in a ditch, a cell phone call he placed afterward, and his telling a man on whose door he knocked not to call police.
The department sought Grogan's termination on four grounds, three tracing to the December 2004 incident. The first count was that he engaged in unlawful conduct. (In August 2006, a jury convicted Grogan of misdemeanor disorderly conduct but not of criminal damage to property.) The other two counts alleged that he subsequently engaged in untruthfulness -- which is against MPD rules, if the department chooses to care.
Krueger agreed that Grogan was guilty of all three of these counts, saying "Mr. Grogan's intricate web of falsehoods stretched through every aspect of his communications with department concerning the events of December 19, 2004." But she exonerated him on a fourth charge -- failure to report that he was a suspect in an alleged theft of gas from a gas station in August 2006, about two weeks after his criminal conviction.
Department rules require that officers promptly report to their superiors if they are suspects in a crime. But Krueger agreed with Grogan's attorneys that driving off from a gas station without paying -- allegedly -- is a forfeiture offense, not a crime. Good to know.
In conclusion, Krueger noted Grogan's "proven abilities as a police officer" and said it was "regrettable" that she shared the view that his employment be terminated. "It is never pleasant to have to endorse such a severe consequence, but I am convinced that anything less would be inadequate and a disservice to the department."