Daniel J. Vidmar, Petitioner-Appellant,
Milwaukee City Board of Fire Police Commissioners, Respondent-Respondent
from an order of the circuit court for Milwaukee County: Nos.
2014CV6204 2014CV6481, JOHN J. DiMOTTO, Judge. Affirmed.
Curley, P. J., Kessler and Brash, JJ.
Daniel J. Vidmar appeals an order affirming the decision of
the Milwaukee City Board of Fire and Police Commissioners
(Board) to permanently discharge him from his employment as a
police officer with the Milwaukee Police Department
(Department). Vidmar makes the following arguments on appeal:
(1) the Board proceeded on an incorrect theory of law; (2)
the circuit court wrongly concluded that deference was owed
to the Board's findings of fact and credibility
determinations; and (3) the circuit court erred by applying
an incorrect standard of review. We disagree and affirm.
Vidmar began working as a police officer for the Department
in December 2004. In August 2012, Vidmar was working in the
bicycle unit at the District 7 station.
On August 18, 2012, Officer Joseph Newell took possession of
a dirt bike in connection with an arrest for disorderly
conduct. When a bike is retrieved as part of an arrest, it is
tagged with a number for inventory purposes. After the
identifying number and a description of the bike are entered
into the Department's computer system, a document
entitled "Officer Drop Receipt" is generated. The
"Officer Drop Receipt" is used by the Department to
track property that it seizes. Officer Newell entered into
the computer system that the person he arrested indicated
that the dirt bike did not belong to him. The dirt bike was
placed in the District 7 station inventory room for storage.
The Department has a standard operating procedure for
disposing of bicycles that come into police possession, but
are not claimed. It states in relevant part:
560.80 BICYCLES, MOPEDS, AND MINI-BIKES
Bicycles, mopeds, and mini-bikes less than 51 cc shall be
maintained at all District Stations and processed in the
C. Prior to initiating the disposal process on an inventoried
bicycle, moped, or mini-bike, NCIC and CIB shall be checked a
second time for stolen/wanted and the printout must be
attached to the white copy of the Property
D. Bicycles, mopeds, and mini-bikes will be retained for
thirty (30) days if ownership cannot be established. If the
owner is known, complete and mail a Property Release
Letter (Form PP-47) to the owner and attach a copy of
the letter to the original inventory. The bicycle, moped, or
mini-bike shall be retained for thirty (30) days from the
date of the Property Release Letter being mailed.
F. All bicycles, mopeds, or mini-bikes or parts thereof, not
returned to the lawful owner or claimant shall be maintained
at each district station.
G. Property Control will dispose of all unclaimed bicycles
not picked up by the owner or claimant.
H. Disposal of bicycles shall be done expeditiously and in
accordance with City Ordinance 102.11(6)(7).
I. Bicycle disposal generated revenue will be deposited in
the Milwaukee Police Department's Bicycle Equipment
Special Purpose Fund in accordance with City Ordinance
(Some formatting changed; italics in original).
In late August 2012, Vidmar saw the dirt bike in the
inventory room at the District 7 station and thought it would
be good for his son. Vidmar asserts that he contacted the
Department's Property Control Division and was advised
that if the dirt bike was unclaimed after thirty days in
inventory, he could claim it as long as someone else was
listed as the claimant. Vidmar waited thirty days and filled
out a PO-5 "Order for Property" form, omitting the
date and description of the dirt bike. In the space for
the property claimant's name, Vidmar wrote "Mark
Dempski." Vidmar took the PO-5 form to Sergeant Lawrence
Mueller and asked him to sign the form to release the dirt
bike. Sergeant Mueller testified that he signed the form
because he trusted that the information Vidmar provided was
correct. Vidmar took the bike home a few days later.
During the summer of 2012, Officer David Ziebell was assigned
the task of auditing all bicycles inventoried at each of the
Department's district stations. In reviewing the PO-5
form associated with the dirt bike, Officer Ziebell noticed
that it was incomplete. The name listed on the form was also
familiar to him-Mark Dempski-although the person Officer
Ziebell knew spelled it "Demski." Officer Ziebell
confirmed that Mark Demski had not claimed the dirt bike,
and, after further investigation, discovered that the dirt
bike was in Vidmar's possession. Soon thereafter, Vidmar
returned the dirt bike to the District 7 station.
Officer Ziebell brought the PO-5 form to Lieutenant Robert
Menzel, who contacted Captain Regina Howard. Subsequently,
Vidmar met with Captain Howard regarding the incident,
although it is disputed who initiated this meeting. Captain
Howard advised Vidmar that his actions were improper and
provided him with a copy of the Code of Conduct. Captain
Howard did not refer the matter to Internal Affairs. The
conversation between Captain Howard and Vidmar would likely
have marked the end of this matter if not for an anonymous
letter sent to the Board. This letter, dated November 19,
2012, states in relevant part:
Lt. Menzel, acting captain at Property the [sic] Division,
found out a District 7 officer, Daniel Vidmar, filed [sic]
out an inventory form involving a bicycle worth approximately
$1500.00. Officer Vidmar waited a certain amount of time and
then decided to release the bicycle to himself, he took the
bike by falsify [sic] paperwork. Officer Vidmar, but [sic] a
false claimant down, forged a person's name and walked
out of District 7 with the bike, while he was being carried
as Injured on Duty.
Lt. Menzel knew this, called Capt. Howard and District 7 and
they both wept [sic] this under the rug. Lt. Menzel said
Capt. Howard owes him a favor now. This was clear cut theft
and forgery. Officer Zibel [sic] from the Property Division
called the claimant, whom [sic] Officer Vidmar's report
[sic] took the bike. The individual said he never received a
bike from the Milwaukee Police Department.
All Capt. Howard did was call Officer Vidmar and tell him to
return the bike. The rest ...