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Rock County committee rejects censure of sheriff


A Rock County Board committee voted unanimously Monday to reject a resolution that would censure the sheriff, but the matter might still reach the full county board.

“I don’t like the politics of it,” said Terry Fell, a member of the public safety and justice committee, as he commented before the vote in a meeting at the county courthouse.

Committee members Mary Beaver, Hank Brill and Brian Knudson also voted “no.” A fifth committee member, Phil Owens, was not present.

Fell, a former chief deputy with the Rock County Sheriff’s Office, said after the meeting that voters should be able to decide on their own whether they want to keep Sheriff Bob Spoden.

Spoden, who attended the meeting but did not speak, is up for re-election in November.

The meeting was unusually well attended. Abigail Scieszinski was the only one to speak. She said Spoden is doing “a wonderful job” and that censure is “unnecessary.”

Scieszinski asked all who agreed with her to stand. About 20 stood.

The resolution, introduced by county board member Rick Richard, refers to Spoden’s actions when Janesville police investigated an accident at an underage drinking party at a Janesville residence.

Spoden’s son attended the party and was a close friend of Max Rammer, who like many at the party had graduated from Janesville Craig High School in June.

Rammer was injured in a pool at the residence, causing paralysis from the chest down, according to police reports.

Spoden contacted the police officer investigating those events, strongly suggesting that there was no reason to investigate. He also told Police Chief Dave Moore the party-goers were good kids from good families who were grieving over their injured friend and that the investigation was needlessly upsetting them, according to a report Moore wrote at the request of state investigators.

District Attorney David O’Leary, who referred the matter to the state attorney general, said later that Spoden should have known better than to interfere in an investigation.

The state Division of Criminal Investigation investigated and found no criminal wrongdoing.

Immediately after Monday’s meeting, Spoden went into a meeting with County Board Chairman Russ Podzilni.

Spoden said afterward that he would decide with his family in April whether he will run for re-election.

Capt. Gary Groelle of the sheriff’s office has already declared that he will run for sheriff, his second attempt.

Podzilni said after the meeting that if a majority of board members want the resolution on the county board agenda, he would be inclined to place it there. He said board bylaws state that only five board members are needed to place a matter on the agenda.

But Podzilni said Monday’s committee action was unexpected, so he was unprepared and needed to talk to the county corporation counsel to make sure he handles the matter properly.

Spoden handed out a statement after the meeting, saying in part: “I continue to remain focused on providing public safety services to the Rock County community. As a man of Christian faith, my thoughts and daily prayers continue to center on praying for both physical healing and emotional strength for Max Rammer, who is so very bravely dealing with paralysis as a result of an extremely tragic pool accident. ...

“Over the past six months, it has been heartening to witness the magnitude of community support shown to Max and his family as they endure the many complex facets of an unexpected, life-changing event,” the statement continues. “As a 30-year veteran of the law enforcement profession, I recognize and respect the members of the Rock County Board of Supervisors Public Safety and Justice Committee for their wisdom, understanding and professionalism in the handling of this matter. Additionally, I am tremendously grateful for the unwavering support I have received from my family, friends, constituents and other criminal justice professionals.”

Kids, parents take advantage of rare, snowy Monday


Monday’s steady snow was enough for Janesville to declare a snow emergency.

It was enough for Edgerton and Evansville to cancel school.

But it was not enough to prevent an impromptu ice hockey game in Milton.

Nolan Dallman, Wyatt Smart, and Patrick and Tommy Sensenbrenner used their day off—already scheduled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day—to lace up their skates. The Northside Intermediate students played on a flooded, grassy area in Central Park just north of the high school, using boots and other belongings for makeshift goals.

The boys had been there a couple of hours and played the previous night, too, thoroughly enjoying the winter weather. For them, the snow was overdue.

The overnight low pressure system that dropped about 5 inches of snow on Janesville as of Monday afternoon was the biggest snowfall this winter. But the city is lagging behind its seasonal to-date snow average, according to Gazette weather records.

Since 1947, Janesville has typically accumulated 16 inches of snow by Jan. 15. This year, that total was about 11 inches but growing as snow continued to fall into the early evening.

The dearth of snow so far is because most weather systems have bypassed Janesville to the north or south. The jet stream has carried snow to unusual places in the South instead, said J.J. Wood, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sullivan.

Last month, a winter storm dumped snow on Atlanta and Houston and even a little in Brownsville, Texas, the state’s southernmost city. With little infrastructure to deal with a snowstorm, life in those Southern communities came to a grinding halt.

Monday in Janesville, crews plowed main roads throughout the storm to keep the city moving. Still, the city declared a snow emergency and ordered parked cars off the streets by 3 p.m., according to a news release.

Drivers who did not comply risked getting $50 tickets. Once the snow tapered off Monday night, plow drivers began clearing all side streets.

Despite the relative lack of precipitation, Janesville is not in the midst of a winter drought. But it is mired in a spell of below-average temperatures, according to Gazette weather data.

Since 1947, the average temperature between Dec. 1 and Jan. 15 has been 23.2 degrees. This winter, the average sits at 19.5 degrees, thanks to a fluctuation between light jacket weather and bone-chilling frigidity.

Wood said a colder-than-normal winter is not proof that global warming is a hoax, as some claim it to be every time temperatures fall into the single digits.

“Weather, especially in short time periods, you can get warm spells, cold spells,” he said. “Climate, we’re talking about years and decades and trends to really get a sense of what’s going on.”

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center projected the three-month stretch of January through March to be colder and wetter than normal.

Maybe Janesville will make up lost ground on low snow totals. But the immediate forecast here looks mostly dry the rest of the week, Wood said.

Those wanting to enjoy the snow-globe atmosphere needed to take advantage while they could.

Across the street from the hockey game, about a dozen kids gathered atop a hill to sled and snowboard.

Shelby Kelley brought her sons Collin and Evan Garcia to sled. She said she wanted to get them out of the house so they wouldn’t be cooped up playing video games.

Collin is in eighth grade and Evan is in fifth, but despite being an age where many kids want to avoid their parents, both enjoyed sledding with their mom.

On one trip down, all three went downhill together. Kelley recorded video of the moment, preserving family memories until the next snowy day.

Robert Spoden