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Wednesday

August 2014

27

New Butler trustees optimistic

Village of Butler — Two newly elected trustees are optimistic that communications between village residents, the village board, and the police department can improve.

"We have to improve communications," said Patricia Tiarks.

"I have some ideas but I am not ready to talk about them yet. I am the newest board member. I just attended my first meeting and I have a lot to learn," she added.

Tiarks, a newcomer to elected village politics, and former Village Trustee Michael T, Thew Sr., along with incumbent David Hesselgrave were elected in the municipal election held on April 1. Incumbents Jeanne Briggs and Susan Hesselgrave were defeated.

Tiarks would not comment on the recent and past controversies swirling around the police department because she said she was not on the Village Board at the time certain incidents occurred.

Thew said he is confident that newly appointed Police Chief David Wentlandt will do a better job of communication with the board and the community than did retired Police Chief Michael Cosgrove.

"I have confidence in this police chief. I believe he will make sure that the police department is doing things right," Thew said.

Conduct and attitudes

A year ago an investigation by the Waukesha County Sheriff's office concluded there was unprofessional conduct and sexist and racist attitudes in the police department, including incidents involving Cosgrove and several of his officers watching pornography on police department computers while they were on duty.

At the time, Village President Richard A. Ensslin asserted there was "no scandal" in the department despite Cosgrove's retirement in the midst of the investigation; three police officers being disciplined as a result of the investigation; and one officer being placed on administrative leave for more than a year.

The episode has cost village taxpayers more than $150,000 in legal fees and salaries and benefits paid to Lt. Brian Pergande, the officer on administrative leave.

Pergande also is facing criminal misconduct charges as a result of incidents not related to the sheriff's investigation, according to District Attorney Brad Schimel.

Awaiting report

Village trustees still have not received a copy of the sheriff's report and were apparently not informed of the latest episode of misconduct in the police department, resulting in a 20-day suspension of Officer Chad Rahn.

The Sussex Sun has filed an open records request seeking the circumstances behind Rahn's suspension. Village officials have said they will comply with the request but must await a decision by Rahn regarding whether he will attempt in court to block the disclosure of his misconduct.

Village Board members have been described as "cardboard cutouts" by one of their fellow trustees, David Hesselgrave.

Hesselgrave could not be reached for comment for this story but in the past has complained that the trustees have surrendered their authority to Village President Ensslin, former Administrator Jessie Thyes, and Village Attorney Paul Alexy.

During the past year, most trustees have referred reporters' questions to either Ensslin, the village attorney or the administrator.

Prior to the April 1 election, the Sussex Sun sent all of the trustees an email with questions regarding their role in the village. None of the trustees responded.

Roles spelled out

According to state law, the Village Board is responsible for "management and control" of village property and various village departments. The village administrator and village attorney are contractors or employees of the Village Board.

According to the Wisconsin League of Municipalities, the village president has "certain administrative responsibilities but is not "a chief executive officer."

Thew said he believes it the responsibility of the village board to "oversee" the operations of village departments and leave most of the day to day administrative decisions to the department heads and village administrator.

Tiarks said she plans to attend a workshop in June to learn about the roles of the village board, administrator and police chief.

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