Dells-Delton paramedics issue vote of no confidence, allege discrimination by public safety director

UPDATE: In a letter Tuesday, IAFF Local 5026 President Spencer Nett criticized Lake Delton and Wisconsin Dells officials for not placing Chief Hardman under administrative leave or terminating him.

“The predictable consequence of this dereliction is exactly what Local 5026 was fearful of,” Nett said. “This inaction places our members, citizens, and families in unnecessary danger, and is deserving of further scrutiny.”

Nett also called for a third-party investigation into Hardman’s leadership.  

LAKE DELTON, Wis. — Dells-Delton paramedics issued a vote of no confidence in the leadership of Lake Delton Police Chief and Director of Public Safety Daniel Hardman Monday.

In a letter, members of IAFF Local 5026 allege Hardman discriminated against employees based on gender, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs. News 3 Now reached out to Chief Hardman for comment regarding the vote of no confidence, and the allegations in the letter, but he has not yet responded.

“We fully believe that if this letter does not have the desired result, there will most certainly be workplace retaliation,” Local 5026 President Spencer Nett said. “However, we feel compelled to disclose these outlined injustices, take this difficult vote, and submit this letter.”

The letter claims Hardman failed in his ability to lead and decimated morale, including allegedly telling EMS workers that they do not deserve to be paid the same amount as police officers and allegedly using offensive nicknames for staff members.

Hardman also allegedly discussed personnel issues openly, including his desire to fire certain employees. The letter claims he created a climate of fear amongst EMS staff, issuing gag orders under threat of termination.

“Mr. Hardman demands respect he has not earned while disparaging the workforce,” Nett said.

The letter alleges that Hardman made derogatory comments about members of the Dells-Delton EMS Commission, and forbade Dells-Delton employees from attending public commission meetings. In those meetings, Hardman allegedly lied about employment conditions and claimed ignorance about reported incidents within the department.

“This indicates that Mr. Hardman either lacks interest in the day-to-day operations of this department, or that he simply does not care about the individuals under his charge and command,” the letter stated.

Hardman also allegedly changed the department’s grievance process, preventing employees from voicing their concerns to the EMS Commission.

“Bound by our policies and procedures implemented by Mr. Hardman, our hands have remained tied,” Nett said. “This lack of superintendence has caused autocratic rule within our agency which has no checks and balances.”

The letter also alleges that Hardman failed to fill open staff positions, and reduced weekend staffing despite increased demand during the pandemic.

“Mr. Hardman offers unrealistic solutions and refuses to negotiate or collaborate to effectively problem solve.”

Hardman reportedly planned to use non-medically trained personnel to substitute a paramedic when responding to emergency medical calls, a plan that IAFF Local 5026 called one of Hardman’s “aberrational leadership failures.”

“We have long prided ourselves with providing exemplary care to the citizens of the communities we serve,” Nett said. “Allowing Mr. Hardman to enact a policy with such obtuse logic would be nothing shy of gross negligence.”

In speaking to IAFF representatives, Hardman was allegedly patronizing, threatening, and displayed enmity.

“We believe with all certainty that Mr. Daniel Hardman does not possess the necessary qualities required of this position,” Nett said. “He has undermined the public credibility of this Department, its employees, and the welfare of the community.”

Employes allege homophobia, racism, and sexism

Ten current and former Dells-Delton paramedics submitted letters detailing alleged misconduct by Hardman.

One letter alleges Hardman told a joke that used a homophobic slur as the punchline. When later confronted about the joke, Hardman allegedly told the paramedic to never speak of the incident again.

The paramedic said that they feared for their job, and were “groomed” to stay quiet.

“I love my position as a Paramedic for Dells-Delton EMS and feared standing up would cost me that,” they said.

A second employee alleges Hardman once told a story where he referred to Mexicans as cockroaches. He reportedly repeated the comment multiple times afterward.

During the hiring process, Hardman allegedly told a female employee she could keep her secondary job as long as it didn’t interfere with her work at Dells-Delton, and as long as she wasn’t “dancing in the clubs.” The employee’s places of secondary employment were printed on her resume and were not sexual in nature. The employee believes Hardman made these comments because of her gender and age.

Claims of a pattern of intimidation

Another employee claimed they were threatened by Hardman during an internal investigation. This employee was interviewed as part of the investigation and believed that they were punished for not providing the information that Hardman was looking for.

“I believe this was his way of hopefully intimidating me to change my statement to meet his desired outcome,” the employee said.

A second employee alleged that, following an interview as part of an internal investigation, Hardman accused them of lying and threatened termination.

Hardman reportedly told both employees that they had committed Brady violations, and could have their medical licenses revoked.

After a paramedic was diagnosed with gastroparesis, a condition that forced them to only consume liquids and soft foods, Hardman allegedly began referring to the paramedic as “Gerber.” The paramedic said they felt disheartened and demeaned by the name. Hardman reportedly never called the employee by their real name ever again, instead only calling them “Gerber.”

The same paramedic alleged Hardman made disparaging remarks about their tattoos. The tattoos are a symbol of the employee’s Native American heritage, something that they claim they’ve been very open about. The employee believes that Hardman made these remarks based on their heritage and religion.

Another employee alleged that Hardman belittled employees who pursued nursing degrees, and referred to the employee as “Nurse Ratched,” a reference to the main antagonist in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

“It is these types of behaviors that have caused our morale to plummet,” the employee said. “What was said to me is just an example of the belittling we deal with on a daily basis.”

A paramedic who has worked for Dells-Delton for over 10 years alleged Hardman made verbal outbursts towards them, both in public and in private, and made threats of termination and false claims of insubordination.

“It didn’t take long for me to stop engaging and slowly become accustomed to Mr. Hardman’s daily mistreatments,” they said. “Nonetheless, his menacing conduct has subjected me to an imminent fear of unjust termination.”

Alleged inappropriate contact

Multiple employees have also alleged that Hardman touched them inappropriately while at work, including one instance where he allegedly lifted open a woman’s jacket and rubbed her stomach after finding out she was pregnant. The employee had not given him permission to do this.

The employee said she feared not only for her job, but also for her husband’s job. He works as a police officer under Hardman.

“We write to you today not based solely on opinion or hard feelings, but facts and indisputable evidence of his chronic and ongoing dismissive and demining behavior,” the union said in its letter announcing the vote of no confidence. “We want to remind you that contrary to Mr. Hardman’s accusations, we are not troublemakers, malcontents, or disgruntled employees. We are the highly trained, competent, professional members of the Dells-Delton Emergency Medical Service, who have given our hearts and souls to the citizens and tourists of the Water Park Capital of the World, despite laboring under a misguided and ineffective administration.”