Wausau Police Chief Ben Bliven

Damakant Jayshi

The Police and Fire Commission on Friday will discuss a review of an investigation into the Wausau Police Department’s handling of the 2020 death of a 7-year-old girl, a review that has so far been shrouded in secrecy.

The outside agency investigating the department’s actions will present their findings during the PFC-ordered review, which was based on two complaints. Though previous information shared by Wausau Police Chief Benjamin Bliven did not name the investigating official but instead referred to him as a “chief in the Fox Valley,” one complainant said Neenah Police Chief Aaron Olson spearheaded the investigation.

Last month the investigator questioned officers at the department, though whether those interviews were recorded remains unclear. After the presentation, the commission will hold a closed session to determine their next course of action. PFC meetings are usually held on Mondays, unless additional meetings are required.

The meeting agenda also lists 10-minute speaking slots for Alyssa Froom and Julie Leist, each of whom filed complaints with the Commission late last year alleging a shoddy work in the investigation into the death of 7-year-old Eliana Froom, Alyssa Froom’s daughter and the step granddaughter of Leist. Froom, Leist and Bliven will be allowed to speak on Friday but no public comment will be taken.

Eliana Froom died Oct. 7, 2020, roughly two weeks after she collapsed at a Wausau home where she was staying with her father. Though a medical examiner’s report shows Eliana died of natural causes, her mother and Leist dispute that finding and allege the girl was a victim of neglect.

Both Froom ad Leist told Wausau Pilot & Review that they intend to speak on Friday.

“My daughter Eliana deserves justice,” Froom said. “Just because my daughter is dead does not give anyone the right to sweep this under the rug and not hold all those accountable for their actions and lack of actions.”

Froom wants the commission to refer charges to the Attorney General for investigating officers based on what she described as evidence that “displays unlawful and illegal actions.

Froom also accused Bliven of lacking empathy and displaying arrogance during one of their discussions.

Leist said the PFC has not addressed her appeal or a letter she wrote to them about the case.

They “cannot do nothing,” she said, while accusing Bliven of having a “conflict of interest.” Both Froom and Leist were listed to speak on March 28, but that invitation was abruptly withdrawn five days before the meeting.

Chief Bliven declined to comment in detail but said the PFC “has determined the process they will follow, including who will be speaking at the meeting tomorrow.”

Bliven encouraged Wausau Pilot & Review to contact Will Harris, president of the PFC.

“I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to comment on their process or to speak to the media about the investigation they ordered prior to the meeting tomorrow,” Bliven said.

On Friday, the PFC will likely make a decision on two appeals to reconsider the commission’s dismissal of complaints against the police chief.

In February, the Commission dismissed complaints against the police chief but ordered two investigations of the other officers named in the complaints – one of them to be completed by Bliven himself. Both Froom and Leist challenged that ruling and filed appeals.

The Commission, acting before the 30-day window in which Froom could file an appeal, did not change course. The status of the appeal is not clear as neither the PFC nor outside counsel Samuel Hall, assisting the PFC on the matter, has provided any update. They have cited their “ongoing investigation” for not doing so.

The women have accused the Commission of violating their civil rights and due process. After repeated attempts to get update from the commission failed, the women accused the PFC of “apathy.”

Bliven declined to speak about the status of the investigation that he was ordered to conduct. Froom and Leist have objected to Bliven conducting the investigation, saying he is one of the officers named in their complaints.

The hearing on Friday will be held at the Council Chambers (1st Floor), City Hall at 7.30 a.m.