I started my law enforcement career at the Dodge County Sheriff's Office in 1987.
I have dedicated my whole law enforcement career to serving Dodge County for the past 26 ½ years, and raised my family here.
During my career I've worked in patrol, then was promoted to Sergeant, then to Captain, and finally to Chief Deputy since 2009. I've had the opportunity to work under and learn from five different Sheriff's.
I've worked closely with Court Administration, Probation, Dodge County Human Resources, Drug Court, Dodge County Administration, and numerous others, on a regular daily or weekly basis and have always had the support of the County Commissioners, the County Attorney's Office, Court Administration, and many others in our community.
My Loyalty, which is what seems to be in question, has always been to the citizens of Dodge County who I've had the opportunity to serve during my entire career. As the second in command, I've always felt I had the responsibility to express my honest opinions openly with the Sheriff when discussing policies, procedures, and disciplinary actions for the betterment of the department.
While my confidence in our current Sheriff changed dramatically in the last three years, my loyalty to the citizens of Dodge County, and the dedication and effort I put into my career everyday at the Dodge County Sheriff's Office never wavered.
If you want an accurate assessment of my loyalty and work ethics, I suggest you talk to the people I worked with everyday in the various Dodge County departments.
I would like to say "Thank You" Dodge County for giving me the opportunity to serve you. It was an honor.
By Tara Lindquist
Just before 4 p.m. on Friday, January 17, Chief Deputy Mike Leonhardt was asked to turn in his badge and gun, ending his 26-year career with the Dodge County Sheriff's Department. Sheriff Jim Jensen is only confirming that Leonhardt was terminated from the department, saying he was a disloyal chief deputy. Jensen, on Monday said he wasn't going to elaborate on what the disloyalties were because he has not had an opportunity to discuss the matter with county attorney Paul Kilitinen.
In a statement released to this reporter Monday evening, Leonhardt said in part, "My loyalty, which is what seems to be in question, has always been to the citizens of Dodge County who I've had the opportunity to serve during my entire career. As the second in command, I've always felt I had the responsibility to express my honest opinions openly with the Sheriff when discussing policies, procedures, and disciplinary actions for the betterment of the department.
"While my confidence in our current Sheriff changed dramatically in the last three years, my loyalty to the citizens of Dodge County, and the dedication and effort I put into my career everyday at the Dodge County Sheriff's Office never wavered. If you want an accurate assessment of my loyalty and work ethics, I suggest you talk to the people I worked with everyday in the various Dodge County departments."
Jensen said he did not confer with anyone else in Dodge County government before making the decision to terminate Leonhardt, but that he did discuss it with other sheriff's in the area. "This was my decision," he said.
The chief deputy position is an at will employee position, appointed by the sheriff. Leonhardt was appointed as chief deputy in 2009 by former sheriff Jim Trihey.
Jensen said he has terminated four sheriff's department personnel, in addition to Leonhardt, since taking office in 2010. One of those positions he said was an outdated position and no longer needed in the department.
Jensen said he has made no final decision as to whether he will run for sheriff again but that his decision to terminate Leonhardt was not out of fear that Leonhardt might run against him in the upcoming election. "I was not afraid that he would run against me, no," he said.
At this time, Jensen said he does not know who he will appoint to take Leonhardt's position.
Leonhardt started as a deputy in 1987 in Dodge County and was promoted to a sergeant then to captain and then chief deputy. There have been no disciplinary actions taken against Leonhardt in his 26 years of employment with the sheriff's department.
Former Dodge County Sheriff Gary Thompson, who was sheriff from 2002 until 2009 and who worked with the department for 32 years, described Leonhardt as being dedicated to the sheriff's department and to the citizens of Dodge County. Thompson promoted Leonhardt twice, once to the sergeant's position and then to the captain's position.
Thompson said Monday that he is in disbelief over Leonhardt being accused of being disloyal. "He is absolutely not disloyal, I could not believe that," he said. "He's always been devoted to that department and to the citizens of Dodge County."
Thompson said Sheriff Jensen owes an explanation to the citizens of Dodge County. "I don't understand it," he said. "The citizens have a right to know what he means; he needs to tell them what he thinks the disloyalty was."
Thompson said that in his opinion Leonhardt is the epitome of what a good chief deputy should be as the second in command. "He knew what he was doing," Thompson said. "When you gave him a job to do, you knew it was going to get done and it was going to get done right."
Dodge County Prosecuting Attorney Gary Remine said he has worked along side Leonhardt for over twenty years. "I knew right away that I liked him," he said. "He was dedicated to his job, he did it well. He's an honorable and ethical man." Remine also added that he has seen Jensen handle the department with micromanaging and bullying of the staff. "He is micromanaging the department and it is affecting the ability of the deputies to do their job," he said. "There has been a decline in the morale of the department in recent years, due to the way he has managed the department."
"We take an oath to protect and serve the community to the best of our ability," Remine said. "Law enforcement officers at the expense of their lives and attorney's at the risk of their health. The firing of Mike, a truly superior officer is completely irrational and contradictory to that mission; it serves no legitimate government purpose. "
Remine pointed out he has been an attorney for 34 years and the deputies in Dodge County are the best that he has seen. "It hurts to see my friends and colleagues who are honorable people, suffer for doing the right thing and yet being prevented from doing their job because they fear for their career, their livelihood and their families."
"The citizens of Dodge County deserve a true leader in the sheriff's department," Remine said "The citizens not only deserve better, they deserve the best."