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Judge throws out village charges against resident

Pierce County Circuit Court Judge Robert Wing Wednesday dismissed two disorderly conduct charges the Village of Elmwood had filed against Rick Talford, an Elmwood resident.

The charges--disturbance of meetings and non-verbal gestures--resulted from an April 19 village board committee meeting, during which Talford was alleged to have interfered with a closed session and, at the same time, made the gesture of shooting an imaginary firearm into his head.

Village Clerk Jodi Pulk testified about her accounts of that meeting, which included her noticing Talford looking through the glass entrance door, trying to figure out who was in attendance at the meeting. She, along with Board Member Mike Burke, who was there that day, testified Talford would walk to the door and then walk back to the opposite wall, scribbling notes. Their belief was Talford had a recording device and was trying to take notes.

Soon after, a call was made to the sheriff's department on the basis Talford was disrupting the meeting because board members felt they weren't able to properly discuss the agenda, which was personnel issues.

While waiting for a sheriff's deputy to arrive, Pulk said Talford made the shooting gesture while looking right at her. Upon arrival, the sheriff's deputy found Talford to not have committed any violations that day.

Wing asked Burke why the decision was made to contact the sheriff's department first, and not have a board member approach Talford. His response was they thought it was more appropriate.

Wing additionally asked Burke how far Talford was from Pulk when he made the gesture. Burke estimated 60-70 feet. The distance surprised the judge, who noted how hard it would be to see a gesture from that far away.

As a result of those two factors, including Talford being in a public hallway during the meeting, Wing dismissed the charges.

In addition, from what happened that day, Talford was issued a four-year restraining order to keep away from Pulk by Court Commissioner Julia Gehring. Talford had filed an appeal with Wing, asking for it to be overturned.

In his opinion, dated July 24, Wing denied that appeal due to the following:

"The court commissioner found that Talford pointed his finger at Ms. Pulk as if he were firing a pistol at her. Such conduct has no justification and constitutes harassment. The court commissioner in her oral decision indicated why she chose to credit the testimony of Ms. Pulk as the gesture made by Talford and her conclusion is amply supported by the record.

"Because Pulk is a village official and Talford was allegedly harassing her in her capacity as a village official while Talford was exercising important political rights, the court commissioner chose to narrowly draft the injunction. The court disagrees with the village that the injunction should be stated more broadly. In order to be enforceable and to not prohibit otherwise valid and legitimate conduct, injunctions also should always be drafted as narrowly as possible. That was done in this case."

Talford stated that, after Wednesday's hearing, he's looking to overturn the restraining order by filing a notice with the Court of Appeals in Madison.

Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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