WISNER — The future of a Northeast Nebraska town’s police chief appears to be in doubt following a social media post that recently went viral on area military pages.
Wisner Police Chief Jeffery Treu’s claims of a military career were called into question after a letter from the National Personnel Records Center was posted on Facebook.
The Daily News obtained a hard copy of the letter from Ryan Smith, a deputy with the Howard County Sheriff’s Department and a retired Navy chief petty officer.
Smith had filed a Freedom of Information Request from the records center after being told by other area law enforcement officers that Treu may have fabricated his military career.
The letter from the records center — sent and signed by archives technician John Welsch — says this in regards to a search for Treu’s military history: “We have conducted extensive searches of very records source and alternate records source at this Center; however, we have been unable to locate any information that would help us verify the veteran’s military service.”
Attempts by the Daily News to reach Treu for comment were unsuccessful.
Shannon Falk, a retired U.S. Army paratrooper from Norfolk, said he spoke with Smith about allegations against Treu and was surprised to learn Smith had already run the paperwork.
Falk, too, had heard from two other area law enforcement officers that they had found inconsistencies in stories and timelines involving Treu.
Both Smith and Falk said their investigations into Treu were done on their own time and had nothing to do with any affiliations with the American Legion, any other veterans groups or, in Smith’s case, in his position as a deputy.
“(Treu) owned the bar in Tilden called Hero’s Bar, which was dedicated to past heroes, present heroes. I met (Treu) through the American Legion Riders, and we volunteered numerous times with them for different stuff. I’ve gone to Gold Star dinners with him, and he’s spoken at a lot of events,” Falk said.
A check of mylegion.org showed Treu had been registered with the American Legion in Tilden as a U.S. Marine veteran under the Vietnam-era conflict, Falk said.
Falk said he spoke with Treu over the phone and asked him directly if Treu had ever served in the military. Falk said Treu admitted that he had not.
Numerous sources told the Daily News that Treu had resigned as police chief in Wisner as of mid-week, but this information was unable to be confirmed by anyone at the City of Wisner. Messages left for mayor Chad Dixon have gone unanswered.
City Administrator Al Vacanti said the issue is a personnel matter, and that there will be a personnel item on the city council agenda for Monday’s meeting.
A check of the agenda does show that there is a personnel item with discussion and possible action regarding a city employee on the agenda.
Smith said that Treu’s resignation was not the goal in bringing these issues to light.
“(It was) an unavoidable consequence, considered that law-enforcement officers must uphold the highest of integrity and honesty. Our only goal was for him to stop saying he was a United States Marine and to stop using veterans groups to gain credibility to his fake story,” Smith said.
The post commander of the American Legion in Tilden, Tom Nelson, said Treu is no longer a legionnaire.
“His membership has been revoked. We had to try to track down his (military) discharge paperwork, and obviously he didn’t have any. ... (Treu) has also admitted guilt, and he did that at the department level,” Nelson said.
Treu has raised money for and participated on numerous honor flights put on by Patriotic Productions out of Omaha. Falk said Treu has raised a significant amount of money for the company, though he went on the trips to Washington, D.C., as a volunteer and as an EMT and not as a veteran.
Falk said Treu raised money for the flights under the guise of being a veteran though.
Patriotic Productions could not be reached for comment, though messages were left at the business line and via social media.
However, co-owner of Patriotic Productions, Evonne Williams, came to the defense of Treu in the comments of a Facebook post.
The post read, in part: “It is deeply disheartening and disturbing the ‘piling on’ of Jeff Treu. Claiming to be a veteran is hardly an original sin. We've never known him to claim to be a combat or decorated Marine. Jeff has raised tens of thousands of $ for honor flights in Nebraska over the last decade, so that many veterans could go. We appreciate all that he has done to help us.”