By PAT MULVANEY | Monroe County Herald Editor
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department has referred misdemeanor charges to the district attorney’s office against the Ontario police chief and one of his officers, following a Sept. 28 crash in the Village of Cashton.
Ontario Police Chief Dave Rynes and one of his part-time officers, Grover Wooten, could be facing one count each of obstructing an officer, while Rynes additionally could be charged with misconduct in public office, stemming from the accident.
According to the Sheriff’s report, a deputy responded to a one-car accident on Hwy. 33 near Johnson Street in Cashton, where an Ontario squad car had driven off the road and struck a no parking sign at around 4:30 a.m.
The operator of the Ontario squad car, Wooten, who had called in the accident himself, told the deputy he was coming back from working a shift at Oktoberfest in La Crosse when he swerved to miss a dog and struck the no parking sign.
In his report, the investigating deputy said it appeared Wooten had just driven straight through the curve in the road and made no attempt to swerve. The deputy then noticed the squad had a dash camera, which he believed would have recorded the accident.
When questioned again about how the accident occurred, Wooten said he had fallen asleep and missed the curve.
Wooten said he called Rynes, who told him to report that he had swerved to miss an animal, according to the sheriff’s report. The deputy then phoned Rynes, telling him Wooten had come clean, admitting to falling asleep at the wheel.
The report states Rynes admitted to the deputy that he told Wooten to say he swerved to miss a dog. Wooten then told the deputy that after the crash he left the scene and drove back to the Ontario police station, but didn’t feel right about it and returned, according to the report.