Dennis Hunt, who is running to replace Rep. Tom Larson (R) in Wisconsin’s 67th Assembly District, is also in the middle of a $1 million dollar lawsuit against Chippewa County that, if successful, would leave taxpayers footing the bill for his failure to perform in a county job.
The lawsuit comes after two separate independent investigations found Hunt lying about a female colleague and being insubordinate to his manager. Hunt was fired from his county job, but disputes the propriety of that termination with his lawsuit.
The first investigation looked into the allegation that County Administrator Frank Pascarella created a “hostile work environment” by approaching Dennis Hunt’s assistant, Lori Zwiefelhofer, with a request to meet outside of the office in order to discuss county budget related issues. Hunt claimed that his colleague was extremely uncomfortable with the request. According to the investigation however, the incident was never reported by Zwiefelhofer, and Hunt was found to have misrepresented her comments about the meeting.
Ironically, while Hunt alleged that others were creating a hostile work environment at the county, a witness of Hunt’s office antics told investigators that Hunt was doing everything in his power to undermine County Administrator Pascarella.
When questioned by the investigator about the incidents, Hunt sought to impugn Pascarella’s character by suggesting that perhaps because Pascarella’s wife lived several counties away in Polk County, he was actually seeking to hit on Zwiefelhofer (a claim that Zwiefelhofer flatly denied.)
The investigator concluded that:
“Lori specifically told Dennis that he was putting words in her mouth, she never asked for a written apology…At that point, Dennis could have done something to clarify the scope of Lori’s concerns, but he chose not to…Dennis attempted to minimize Lori’s knowledge of the series of e-mails between Dennis, Frank, and County Board members, yet he admitted that for the past two months her was coaching Lori to issues to him with respect to the budget…Dennis attempted to deny that he uses this tactic with Lori. Yet Lori, Traci, and Frank all stated that Dennis quizzed Lori about every conversation she had with him.”
He further explained that:
“I found Lori and Tracy to be very credible witnesses. Frank also seemed very credible and appears to be struggling with managing Dennis, a subordinate employee. Dennis appears to very manipulative to me. He seemed like he was trying a little too hard to appear credible. He also appears to have no respect for his supervisor or the HR director.”
A separate independent investigation into whether Frank Pascarella attempted to mislead the County Board over a tax levy issue found the administrator innocent. It also revealed that it was widely believed that Hunt wanted the administrator job held by Pascarella.
Several employees with the county expressed a belief that Hunt wanted Pascarella’s job with one employee even saying that she believed Hunt “is intentionally doing things to try and undermine Frank so that he will be fired and Dennis can take over.” Hunt has called this statement frivolous in his lawsuit.
Despite both independent investigations finding the county not liable, Hunt has not withdrawn his lawsuit and the case is scheduled for a jury trial in October of next year.