Janesville59.1°

Darien board returns police officer to call list

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ANN MARIE AMES
June 16, 2009
— For a little while, it looked like village of Darien politics were going to quiet down.

But a vote about a part-time police officer lead to one of the most argumentative board meetings since December, when Police Chief Steve DeVoy lost his job.


The board Monday night voted 4-3 to put officer Craig Konopski back on the call list "with the hours he had before." The call list includes names of part-time officers who can fill work shifts if full-time officers don't.


The board in April voted to take Konopski off the list. Since then, it has come to the village's attention that Konopski was in training with the National Guard.


Konopski's job is protected by law, Whitewater attorney Terry Race said.


Race is not Konopski's attorney, but he does work as a volunteer with Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a volunteer advocacy group for guardsmen and reservists.


Specifically, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act protects the jobs of men and women who serve in the National Guard or in the armed forces reserves.


"I believe the board has to reinstate him, or I believe we will be facing a lawsuit," board President Evelyn Etten said.


Etten read Race's letter to the board and the audience. The law is swayed in the favor of the military member, Race wrote.


"Without it, we would not have a viable military," Race wrote.


Konopski told fellow Darien officer Chet Wilson he was entering Guard training, according to the letter. Village officials have said they did not know Konopski was in Guard training.


The real argument came when the board talked about the difference between putting Konopski back on the call list and actually having him work in the village. The law requires military personnel get to come back to work with the same hours they had before active duty.


Village attorney David Danz said Race suggested the village use the time between March 2008 and March 2009 as a guide for counting Konopski's hours.


Some board members said Konopski hadn't worked in the village since December, when DeVoy was suspended with pay. The months since then shouldn't be included in the count, board member Debi Olmstead said.


On the other hand, board member Kurt Zipp said there was no way the board could mandate hours.


In the village, full-time officers get first pick at all hours—even if that means they get overtime, Zipp said. Part-timers get the hours that are left, he said


"If there are no part-time hours, we can't manufacture them," Zipp said.


Raised voices, accusations and interruptions peppered the discussion. Board member Craig McCue accused Danz of giving the village bad advice. An audience member accused McCue of discussing the situation with a former board member outside the boardroom.



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