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Acuity special investigator recognized by WI-IAAI

Joel Clausing was named Investigator of the Year for his work on a fire investigation at a business in southeastern Wisconsin

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June 28, 2023

SHEBOYGAN – Each year, the Wisconsin Chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators (WI-IAAI) recognizes one “Fire Investigator of the Year” who has shown “outstanding achievement” through the use of professional expertise in both the criminal and civil fields of arson control.

This year, that recognition went to Joel Clausing, a special investigator at Acuity Insurance in Sheboygan.

“This award recognizes Joel’s outstanding investigative skills in a fire investigation at a business in southeastern Wisconsin,” Jason Knecht, WI-IAAI awards and scholarship committee chair, said.

“Ultimately, Joel’s persistent work led to arson charges being filed in this case.”

A bit more on Joel
Though he moved around quite a bit as a youngster, Clausing said he’s always been a Midwestern guy.

“I was born in Iowa and then moved to Nebraska,” he said. “I lived a little bit in Minnesota during my grade school years, but I ended up graduating high school in Nebraska.”

From there, Clausing attended the University of Minnesota Mankato where he obtained a degree in law enforcement.

After graduation, he moved to Slinger, Wisconsin, and joined the Washington County Sheriff’s Department, where he served for 22 years.

During that time, Clausing worked as a deputy sheriff from 1995-2001 and as a detective from 2001-16. 

After more than two decades in law enforcement, Clausing said he felt like a career change was needed.

“It just seemed like the right time,” he said.

That is when, Clausing said, an opportunity with Acuity became available.

“(Being a special investigator) brings different challenges in a different arena, but it’s still completing investigations,” he said.

‘Every day is different’
Clausing said one of the things he likes most about his job as a special investigator with Acuity is “every day is different.”

“We assist claim reps with their claims investigations,” he said. “Now, that could be a worker comp investigation. It could be a subrogation investigation.”

Clausing said for those who aren’t familiar with what subrogation is, “it’s finding out who’s at fault and being compensated by them.”

“For example, if there’s an accident with two cars in a crash,” he said. “One car is an Acuity-covered car, one car is (covered by another insurance provider), and they are both pointing fingers at each other for the fault. We defend the people in the Acuity-covered car, and if we can find out the (other) car is at fault, we sue the (other insurance carrier) for the damages to our insured car, which we paid to have fixed. It’s called subrogation because we subrogate a loss because it wasn’t our fault.”

Clausing is part of Acuity’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), a team of investigators with a diverse background of training, experience and advanced certifications.

In addition to his two decades worth of law enforcement experience, Clausing also has a certified insurance fraud investigator designation.

“Much of my job deals with fraud as well,” he said.

As a special investigator, Clausing said he appreciates “that Acuity gives us the autonomy to make decisions on our investigations.”

“They give us the ability to (conduct an investigation) as we see fit,” he said.

Though it’s not always possible, he likes to be able to “give people reasons” for what or why things happened.

“I can’t always do that right, but when I can, I like to give people a cause for a loss,” he said.

The steps of the investigation are also aspects of the job Clausing said he enjoys.

“I like interviewing, talking to people, going to scenes, documenting scenes,” he said. “We travel to where the problem or the issue is – from urban to rural.”

Fire Investigator of the Year
The International Association of Arson Investigators is an international professional association of more than 11,000 fire investigation professionals.

Clausing was recognized by the organization’s Wisconsin chapter last month for his work on an arson case in southern Wisconsin from last March.

According to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, insurance fraud costs American consumers and businesses $80 billion per year.

The case Clausing was recognized for involved a fire that caused $2.3 million worth of damage to a business in Cudahy, which through his investigation was deemed arson.

Clausing investigated the origin and cause of the fire with the assistance of a certified fire investigator and electrical engineer. 

Using the information obtained by Clausing through interviews, cellphone records and scene analysis, law enforcement interviewed the manager and obtained a confession for the arson. 

Clausing said the manager was charged with arson and his court case is pending. 

Acuity CEO Ben Salzmann said Clausing’s actions highlight the focus the insurance company has on preventing fraud.

“We work hard to detect and fight fraud to ensure our honest customers don’t end up paying the price,” he said. 

Acuity President Melissa Winter said Clausing’s achievement “reflects Acuity’s commitment to fighting arson and other types of insurance fraud.”

“We congratulate Joel on being named Fire Investigator of the Year,” she said.

Clausing said he’s humbled by the recognition, but “it wasn’t just me.”

“Probably 10 to 15 people worked on this (case),” he said. “If everyone didn’t work together and do their part, it wouldn’t have been as successful. So, it’s nice to be recognized, but at the same time, it was a team effort.”

Clausing said being recognized by the WI-IAA was never something he set out to do.

“I think it’s a nice recognition, but I never strive to be Investigator of the Year,” he said. “I strive to get to the truth.”

Clausing said he doesn’t know what the future holds for him, but he plans to keep doing what he’s doing.

“My future now is getting my kids through college and high school – I still have one in high school, and hoping they are successful in what they do,” he said. “I plan to be here for another 10 years at least.”

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