- Associated Press - Saturday, January 23, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - An employee at a facility for young offenders in Wisconsin was fired for excessive use of force and three other workers on paid leave have resigned as authorities continue investigating abuse allegations.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported (https://bit.ly/1nG5CQf ) that Travis Taves was fired Friday from Lincoln Hills School. Another employee, Timothy Johnson, was among those who resigned this week, but Johnson said his resignation was a mistake. He wasn’t allowed to revoke it.

Taves and Johnson were accused of being involved in an incident in which a resident’s arm was broken. In a separate case, Johnson was with another teen when that teen’s arm was broken. In a third incident, a resident alleged Taves hit him in the head multiple times.

Taves and Johnson, who were paid tens of thousands of dollars while on leave, said they did nothing wrong and believe they are being unfairly blamed for wide-ranging problems at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake schools, north of Wausau. Lincoln Hills houses about 220 teenage boys and young men, and Copper Lake houses about 35 teen girls and young women.

“All the allegations are completely false,” Johnson said. “I’ve become a scapegoat.”

Taves said he’d fight his firing.

“When you ain’t done anything wrong, why would I quit? Why would I fold? And I’m not going to give up,” Taves said.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Joy Staab said she’s limited in what she can say about ongoing investigations.

No one has been charged in the yearlong investigation by the state Department of Justice. Attorney General Brad Schimel has said the probe could take another year. At least 19 Lincoln Hills employees have been put on paid leave.

Taves and Johnson said they were investigated for their response to a 2012 fight in which one teen was assaulting another. They said they were accused of using force on the teen after he was compliant, which they denied. Taves said the teen could have been injured during the fight or when other staff took him to the ground.

Johnson said he used a hold on the teen in which the wrist is pushed toward the forearm to create discomfort. It was clear he was injured after he was moved to a room, and Johnson said he reported it.

“I did not break this kid’s wrist,” he said. “I just did not do it.”

Taves said his discharge letter also cited him for an incident in late 2014 in which a teen raised his fists as if to fight staff. He said he took the teen to the ground. Afterward, the inmate claimed Taves hit him multiple times in the head, which Taves denies.

Johnson said he also used a compliance hold on a disruptive young inmate in a December 2014 incident. The teen was later found to have a fracture. Johnson said he didn’t intend to injure the teen.

Taves had been on leave since January 2015. Johnson was put on leave in March 2015.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, https://www.jsonline.com

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