County grievance committee decides to dismiss sheriff’s office detective sergeant
Sara Welcenbach was accused of mishandling confidential funds for drug buys
STAR JOURNAL REPORT
Oneida County’s Law Enforcement Grievance Committee has decided in favor of dismissing sheriff’s office detective sergeant Sara Welcenbach after wrapping up an evidentiary hearing last week into the charges against her.
Welcenbach, who had been on unpaid leave and hadn’t worked at the sheriff’s office since August 2014, was accused of improperly handling confidential funds when she supervised the North Central Drug Unit Enforcement Group for the sheriff’s office.
According to the statement of charges filed against her by sheriff Grady Hartman, chief deputy Dan Hess and Civil Service Commission chairman Timothy B. Melms, money Welcenbach was responsible for in the drug unit had been discovered missing. That statement of charges also called for Welcenbach’s dismissal as a county employee.
Of the charges filed against Welcenbach, the grievance committee, which is comprised of two County Board members and three non-County Board members with county supervisor Alan Van Raalte as the chairman, determined there was “just cause” under state law to dismiss Welcenbach and unanimously found she engaged in:
- Willful neglect of duty.
- Conduct unbecoming an officer and detrimental to the service.
- General inefficiency and incompetency.
- Making a false official statement or entry in official records.
However, regarding other charges filed, committee members did not find she engaged in:
- Commission of a crime under any law.
- Misuse or unauthorized use of department equipment.
- Any other conduct or omission contrary to good order and discipline, or constituting a violation of any of the provisions of the rules and regulations of the sheriff’s office.
The committee’s action, dated Sept. 7 and publicly released in writing Monday afternoon, is subject to appeal, which Welcenbach would have the right to do so in Oneida County Circuit Court.
Welcenbach had previously been charged in Oneida County Circuit Court with two felony counts of misconduct in office. However, those charges were dismissed as part of a diversion agreement.
The terms of that agreement included having Welcenbach reimburse the sheriff’s department $1,200.80 for the alleged shortages in the drug unit’s cash boxes, though that payment doesn’t constitute an admission of guilt. If the missing or misplaced receipts are discovered, Welcenbach would be reimbursed accordingly in an amount not to exceed $1,200.80.
The diversion agreement also called for Welcenbach to complete an accounting fundamentals course offered at Nicolet College. She is responsible for the tuition and expenses for this course, for which she must receive a passing grade to comply with the terms of the agreement.