ASHWAUBENON – The Ashwaubenon police union is pushing back against the village after it investigated an officer who openly wore a thong at a golf outing.
The squabble began last August when Officer Jamie Zynda and other officers attended an event sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Police, according to records obtained by the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Those who golfed didn’t wear anything identifying themselves as Ashwaubenon Public Safety officers, but they were referred to as such in photos posted online.
During the event, Zynda wore short jean shorts and rolled his Hawaiian shirt into a halter top, records show. He then took off his shorts and golfed for some time wearing only the thong and shirt. Photos and videos of Zynda in that getup were circulated throughout the department and on Facebook.
An officer told the chief of police about the photos, saying, “Your boys are making you proud again,” according to village records.
The incident led to an investigation on behalf of the village by an outside attorney. The attorney, Geoffrey Lacy, contends the outing was a work-related event that officials could justifiably investigate, even though Zynda was off duty.
Though Zynda’s behavior was unusual, Lacy said, it wasn’t “per se unlawful or prohibited by policy.” Still, he concluded that Zynda represents the department when identified as an officer, on or off duty, and must consider whether his behavior could hurt its image.
“This is not a criticism or an expectation with respect to a particular manner of dress, but rather, a reminder that intentionally provocative, particularly sexually provocative behavior, such as golfing while wearing nothing but a thong (at least as to pants) reasonably appears to be intended to be sexually provocative, whether done by a man or women,” Lacy wrote.
The attorney’s report also criticizes Chief Eric Dunning for choosing to “stay out of it” and not look into the matter, records show. Dunning declined to be interviewed for this story and referred a reporter to the village attorney.
In response to the investigation, Zynda received a non-disciplinary letter from Dunning in December asking him to review the village’s sexual harassment policy and dress code.
However, the Ashwaubenon Public Safety Officers Association immediately filed a grievance, noting the investigation didn’t stem from a complaint, and is requesting arbitration to resolve the matter. Arbitration provides a forum for dispute resolution between union members and employers.
At issue is whether Zynda did indeed breach village rules and if the letter constitutes discipline. Village officials say the letter wouldn’t prohibit Zynda from promotional opportunities down the line. The union, though, contends he didn’t violate the harassment policy and should never have received the letter.
An attorney representing the union did not respond to a request for an interview for this story.
Ashwaubenon village attorney Tony Wachewicz said the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission is in the process of scheduling arbitration.