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GUERNSEY – Following an executive session during a Feb. 4 town council meeting, Mayor Nicholas Paustian announced the town had dismissed Sgt. Misty Clevenger from her duties with the Guernsey Police Department.
Clevenger, a 14-year law enforcement veteran who taught for six years at the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy, had been with the department since Aug. 5.
“I was surprised,” Clevenger told the Guernsey Gazette on Thursday. “I’ve never been written up by them. I’ve never been counseled. I’ve never been reprimanded. I’ve never been called into the office to discuss any issues they had with me. Zero. None.”
She said she was not provided an explanation for the firing other than that she is an at-will employee.
Town officials released the following statement on Friday regarding Clevenger's dismissal:
“The Town of Guernsey is an at-will employer, meaning the employee or employer may end an employment relationship at any time and for any reason. Personnel decisions are shielded from public disclosure to protect both the employer and employee. In deference to Ms. Clevenger, we are unable to offer any additional comments regarding her employment.”
The dismissal comes after former Police Chief Terri VanDam resigned on Jan. 15, stating in a letter that she was forced from the position by the mayor and council.
VanDam stated her reasons for the resignation in a letter, which included retaliation against her for being a whistleblower, unethical acts and conduct by town employees and corruption of public officials.
Those alleged unethical acts by town employees and council members may have included accessing “sensitive law enforcement email communications,” according to Clevenger. She said the department has reported that information to state and federal authorities.
“We began to submit how we knew that things were happening,” she said. “It seemed like it was in December that the pedal started moving fast. We reported our emails being accessed and town council members being encouraged to read those emails.”
She said she knew that her email had been compromised when she noticed copies of the emails sent to state and federal authorities on Paustian’s desk during a meeting in late January. A rough draft of a resignation letter was also on the mayor’s desk, she said.
She added that she only decided to turn in the resignation letter after the January meeting with Paustian.
“When I observed my law enforcement sensitive email on his desk sent from my police email to (Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation), I knew I could not do my job effectively anymore,” she said. “Sensitive law enforcement communications should not be accessible by anyone without clearance. I was unable to resign on the 7th as I had planned because I was terminated for the reason listed as ‘at will employment’ on the 4th.”
She said there’s no town policy in place prohibiting and restricting access to reading sensitive law enforcement communications.
“I’m hindered from doing my job because all avenues of communication have been compromised,” she said. “I can no longer do probable cause affidavits. I cannot do sensitive law enforcement communications with Department of Family Services. I cannot communicate with anyone without a town official printing them off and sharing them with other council members.”
The town also said in the Friday statement that “all allegations are in the process of or have been, investigated and to-date there has been no substantiation of any allegation made against the Town of Guernsey.”
Clevenger said she believed the department was making progress under VanDam’s watch.
“We had a lot to dig out and a lot to do but that’s what the excitement and challenge was for me,” she said. “Our goal was to make this department the shining star of smaller police departments in Wyoming. We were heading in that direction.”
Council members on Jan. 21 selected former Police Chief Dwight McGuire to reassume the role. It will be his second stint in the post.