Reported By: Jordan Vandenberge
After what Sheriff Dave Wedding calls a thorough internal investigation spanning two months, the case of a Vanderburgh County Sheriff's deputy is now in the hands of the Merit Board. Meanwhile, an Eyewitness News investigation has uncovered prior allegations against the deputy.
Sergeant Darren Baumberger, a 15 year veteran of the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Office, was placed on paid administrative leave on April 16th after a woman filed a 'stalking' and 'intimidation' complaint against him, according to sources with direct knowledge of the case. As Eyewitness News first reported, the complaint prompted an internal investigation into Baumberger's alleged actions.
Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding said Wednesday afternoon that the nearly two month long internal investigation is complete. The case file will then be presented to Baumberger and the five member Sheriff's Merit Board, Wedding said.
However, independent of the internal investigation was a case involving a protective order against Baumberger. Days after filing the complaint, the woman applied for a protective order. Eyewitness News is withholding the woman's identity. The woman alleged that Baumberger had stalked her and placed her in fear of physical harm, according to court records.
A temporary protective order was granted by Judge Wayne Trockman on May 23rd, according to court records. Just days after the temporary protective order was granted, Baumberger allegedly slowly drove past the woman's house and at one point, stopped in front of the home, according to a video obtained by Eyewitness News.
Baumberger and the woman live on the same street. However, there are three entry and exit points on that street. The apparent drive-by came despite the temporary protective order stipulating that Baumberger stay away from the woman's house, according to court records.
Whether the temporary protective order would become permanent was to be decided by Judge Trockman on Thursday. On Wednesday morning, Judge Trockman dismissed the case after reviewing the depositions.
"The allegations did not rise to the level necessary to grant a protective order," Judge Trockman said. Judge Trockman later added that it was 'very, very unusual' to have a protective order hearing in which both parties are represented by legal counsel. Furthermore, Judge Trockman said, both attorneys filed several motions, legal briefs and conducted depositions.
A few hours after the protective order was dismissed, a Vanderburgh County Sheriff's deputy responded to the woman's house to investigate a harassment complaint, according to Central Dispatch. Witnesses and the apparent victims reported that Baumberger drove by the house and taunted the woman and her husband.
"I'm aware of [the incident]," Sheriff Wedding said in an interview approximately an hour after the incident. "I haven't read the report. It doesn't sound like a major threat but I haven't read the report."
The internal investigation into Baumberger's alleged actions has been complicated, Sheriff Wedding said. As it currently stands, Sheriff Wedding has reviewed the case file and is in the process of handing it over to the Sheriff's Merit Board and Baumberger to have them sort the rest out. Once the Merit Board meeting has been called and Baumberger's case has been heard, the Merit Board will decide on a possible discipline if it deems any discipline appropriate.
"We did a thorough investigation," Sheriff Wedding said. "We interviewed multiple parties that were involved or related to this case. It was a very lengthy investigation. We interviewed many people. We had to re-interview several people that were involved. It just took us a while to get it done. When you have something you consider very serious, you want to make sure you get it done right and we were not going to rush this."
Even though Baumberger has been barred from reporting to work since April 16th, he has continued to be paid. Sgt. Baumberger earns an annual salary of $58,170, according to records obtained by Eyewitness News. Since being on paid leave, Sgt. Baumberger will have made close to $10,000 despite not working.
Under state statute, a deputy can be suspended without pay for up to 15 days. By contract, Sheriff Williams said he can't suspended a deputy without pay for more than 5 days without the deputy having a right to an appeal before the Merit Board.
"Had we suspended him, it would have been punitive action and we didn't have enough information to suspend him without pay," Sheriff Wedding said. "But to protect the integrity of everyone involved, we thought it was in our best interest to dismiss him with pay until we sorted this out."
Eyewitness News obtained an incident report dating back to the Fall of 2011 in which a woman made similar allegations against Baumberger. After the woman ended her relationship with Baumberger, the woman stated Baumberger sent a text message that she felt was threatening in nature, according to the incident report. Following the message, the woman stated that she had texted Baumberger back, asking that he cease all contact with her, according to the incident report.
Later that morning, at the time the woman filed the incident report, the woman stated that Baumberger had called her five times and texted her six times. Four of the calls came from the department's landline and one of the calls came from his personal cellphone, according to the incident report. The calls and text messages were placed during normal business hours. The woman stated that she did not wish to pursue criminal charges but wanted Baumberger to stop calling her, according to the report.
Sheriff Wedding said he was aware of this incident but did not wish to comment on it without having the case file in front of him.
Sheriff Wedding said the Merit Board will likely meet in the coming weeks.
On the advice of his attorney, Baumberger said he would not comment.