Former council member starts job as assistant city attorney

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008
— City officials “absolutely” realized some people might question a decision to hire former council member Tim Wellnitz as assistant city attorney.

Wellnitz’s first day on the job was Monday. His last day as council member was April 14.

“But he was the best-qualified candidate for the position,” said Jay Winzenz, director of administrative services.

The assistant city attorney does most of the ordinance prosecution and any special research projects for City Attorney Wald Klimczyk.

Salary range for the position is $50,314 to $71,514, Winzenz said. Wellnitz said he is paid about $57,000.

Helen Hanau was the city’s former assistant attorney. She left the job in late summer or early fall, Winzenz said.

The city did not hold the position for Wellnitz and, in fact, offered it to somebody else who turned down, Winzenz said.

The city started advertising for the job in October 2007 at area university law schools and in the Wisconsin State Journal. Winzenz described the job as an entry-level attorney position.

In January 2008, the city offered the job to Janesville attorney Robert Howard. He withdrew his application in February, Winzenz said.

The city then brought in another candidate from the initial group of six finalists for a second round of interviews. That individual withdrew his or her name, too.

“That basically got us into the springtime,” Winzenz said.

Wellnitz said he applied for the job after his term on the council expired April 14. He had served for four years.

“At that point, he was no longer a city council member,” Winzenz said. “He was a citizen just like you and I. We can’t discriminate against him because he used to be a city council member.”

Wellnitz, 30, received his law degree from Southern Illinois Law University in 2003. He interned in the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office in 2002 and also worked in the governor’s office. Most recently, he was bureau director for the Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing.

Wellnitz said he always has been interested in public sector work and few government attorney positions exist in Janesville, his hometown.

“The job is a great fit for me,” Wellnitz said.

Now, he won’t have to commute to Madison. And the job there was a political appointment.

Wellnitz announced the day after Thanksgiving he would not seek re-election.

The job, he said, was not the reason he quit. He was looking for “a little bit less on my plate,” he said.

“I’m just fortunate it was open when my time was done on the council,” he said.

“Obviously, I think I was selected because I have a background in this area and (am) qualified for the positions,” he said.

Both of Wellnitz’s parents also work for the city.

His mother, Suzanne, is City Manager Steve Sheiffer’s longtime assistant. His father, Jeff, is a more recent hire and works at the wastewater treatment plant.

According to the city’s policy on hiring, a member of an employee's immediate family may be hired if they are qualified but may not be hired if the employment creates a direct or indirect supervisor-subordinate relationship, the conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Last updated: 9:07 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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