Town, former lieutenant reach settlement

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Kayla Bunge
Thursday, April 8, 2010
— The town might have pocketed $250 from the sale of a lawnmower more than two years ago, but it will have to pay $75,000 to a former police lieutenant who took issue with the sale.

The town of Linn reached a settlement last month with Terrance O達rien, who in October was demoted for what town officials said was disrespecting the police chief and harming department credibility and morale by talking about an ongoing criminal investigation involving members of the department.

The Gazette obtained a copy of the settlement agreement from Town Attorney David Schiltz.

According to the settlement:

-- The town will pay O達rien $75,000.

-- O達rien no longer is employed by the town.

-- The town and O達rien will withdraw all charges and complaints against one another.

The town police department and Chief Dennis Wisniewski have come under fire in the last year because of the lawnmower incident.

A lawnmower taken as evidence in a theft investigation was sold by Wisniewski more than two years ago to a relative of the detective who investigated the case.

O達rien filed a complaint about the incident. Walworth County District Attorney Phil Koss decided not to pursue criminal charges against the chief, but the town board suspended the chief for three days without pay.

Wisniewski in July filed charges against O達rien and asked the town police committee to consider firing him. The committee in October suspended O達rien without pay through the end of 2009 and demoted him to patrolman with a lower salary.

Attorney John Fuchs, who represented the O達rien, argued O達rien did not violate police department policies by talking about the investigation or talking about his plans for the department if the chief and detective were charged with a crime and removed from their positions.

Attorney Steve Rynecki, who represented the chief, argued O達rien should have known better.

O達rien said he talked about the investigation so officers were not blindsided if there were changes within the department as a result.

O達rien filed an appeal in Walworth County Court requesting a reversal of the police committee decision. He argued that the chief did not make a reasonable effort to determine if O達rien violated department policy and that evidence did not support the decision to demote him. He also argued the committee did not follow its own procedures for suspension and demotion.

Neither Fuchs nor Rynecki could be reached for comment Wednesday.

Schiltz said the town and O達rien had been working on a settlement since the start of the year. He said an agreement was the best way to resolve the matter.

的t was clear that this probably was an untenable situation, he said. 的 don稚 think Terry felt comfortable coming back (to the police department), and I don稚 think the other officers felt comfortable either.

Last updated: 1:39 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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