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Representative might sue after he's voted off Edgerton fire board

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Stacy Vogel
July 1, 2009
— To Fulton Town Chairman Evan Sayre, the question of a volunteer firefighter's eligibility to serve on Edgerton's fire commission is clear-cut.

"I don't know of anybody in southern Wisconsin that has an employee on their board," he said. "Everybody understands you don't do that."


The volunteer in question, John Dohner Jr., sees the case differently.


"It's just the old bad blood and the good ol' boy politics they've got going on," he said.


Dohner was elected chairman of the Town of Sumner in Jefferson County in April. He and the town's supervisors decided Dohner should serve as the town's representative on the Edgerton Fire Protection District Commission, he said.


Dohner has been a paid-on-call, also called volunteer, member of the Edgerton Fire Department for 16 years.


The commission voted June 4 that Dohner is ineligible to serve on the commission. He's now thinking about suing the district, he said.


As someone who is paid by the district, Dohner would have to abstain from every vote involving finances, leaving him little to do on the commission, Sayre said.


But Dohner said his experience could benefit the commission.


"I just thought, and some of the volunteers also thought, it would be nice if I bring experience as a firefighter to the commission," he said.


Dohner believes he was voted off the board because of his support for three fired employees in years past, he said. The district settled with the employees in 2008 after courts said the employees were illegally fired for joining a union.


Dohner, shop chairman for the United Auto Workers Local 95 in Janesville, voiced support for the employees.


The commission didn't worry about conflicts of interest before Dohner joined, he said. He pointed out that Secretary Nancy Dickinson served many years as a paid-on-call emergency medical technician in Edgerton while on the commission.


Commission Chairman Dave Viney said that was a different case because Dickinson worked for Curtis Ambulance, the company hired by the district to oversee emergency medical response. Dohner countered the commission negotiated contracts with Curtis that could affect Curtis employees and volunteers.


The district recently took over ambulance service from Curtis. Dickinson resigned from Curtis on May 1 because of a health issue and will not serve the in-house ambulance service because of the conflict of interest, she said.


Viney wouldn't comment on Dohner's accusation of politics entering the commission's decision.


"It's not worthy of a comment," he said.


Thursday, the commission will vote on a resolution stating volunteers and employees of the fire department and ambulance services are not eligible to serve on the commission.


Dohner expects to decide in a few weeks if he will sue the district but fears a lawsuit could hurt district residents, he said.


"Do I want to waste additional taxpayer money because of the way they feel like they can run roughshod over everybody?" he said.


The alternate Sumner representative, Donna Skau, will serve on the commission for now, Dohner said.



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