August 21, 2014

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Vermilion police chief to receive reprimand over satirical newsletter

Chief Chris Hartung

Chief Chris Hartung

VERMILION — Police Chief Chris Hartung may have been taking notes from The Onion when he wrote his satirical Vermilion Police Department newsletter, but Mayor Eileen Bulan isn’t laughing.

Hartung, who will receive a written reprimand from the mayor, said the four-page newsletter, titled “The VPD Insider,” was meant to be funny and not offensive, but someone likely took offense after it was taken off of his desk and sent anonymously to The Chronicle-Telegram and other media outlets.

The profanity-laced newsletter takes jabs at the Amish, mayoral candidate Jean Anderson’s supporters and members of the Vermilion Police Department.

In one article, Hartung compares the hairline of an officer to a newly hired dispatcher, writing, “Seriously, looking down on that is like looking down on a thinning forest where you can see the ground.”

The newsletter, dated July 31, 2013, also referred to an officer’s sister as “hot” and makes fun of the eating habits of employees and Vermilion Fraternal Order of Police K9 fundraisers.

“This raffle goes to support Vermilion K9 Miro who is a multi purpose tracking and narcotics unit. The proceeds will be used to purchase the 5.11 tactical K9 snuggie. This ensures that both K9 and handler can remain warm on cold nights while on a stake out or off duty watching reruns of Lassie,” read the newsletter.

Hartung was nonchalant when contacted about the newsletter on Tuesday, admitting to writing it while on a lunch break at the Police Department. He said the newsletter was modeled off of The Onion, a satirical news organization that parodies current events.

Hartung said the newsletter was not distributed to his employees, but it was taken off of his desk by someone at the department.

“I enjoy my creative writing at times. … It was meant to be funny. I didn’t mean to be offensive,” he said. “We have a strange sense of humor here.”

Hartung said he has taken responsibility for the newsletter and would take whatever punishment is handed down to him.

Bulan said she wasn’t aware of the newsletter until it was leaked to the media, but she sat down with Hartung on Monday to discuss it.

“It was an inappropriate use of time and equipment,” she said.

Hartung, who was promoted to police chief in 2011, is one of the highest-paid city employees. He earned $81,970 in 2012.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaMillerCT.