Janesville33.2°

Linn residents want town police chief fired

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Kayla Bunge
July 6, 2010
— A group of town residents again is working to convince the town board to fire Police Chief Dennis Wisniewski.

The group recently filed a complaint accusing Wisniewski of disrespecting a superior, neglecting his duty and “repeatedly belittling officers and eroding department morale.”


The group at the annual town meeting in April called for the town board to fire Wisniewski.


A resident read a list of reasons to terminate the chief and made a motion to have the town board investigate his claims. But a town supervisor stopped him and said the annual town meeting was not the place to conduct disciplinary action against a town employee.


The next regularly scheduled Linn Town Board meeting is at 7 p.m. Monday, July 12. At that meeting, the board could appoint someone outside of the police department to investigate the new complaint or the board could schedule a special meeting on the issue.


The town police department and the police chief have come under fire in the last year because of the sale of a lawnmower taken as evidence in a theft investigation and the demotion of the police lieutenant who took issue with it.


Wisniewski sold a lawnmower taken as evidence in a theft investigation about three years ago. The lawnmower was sold to a relative of the detective who investigated the case.


Former police Lt. Terrance O’Brien 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 him for three days without pay.


Wisniewski in July 2009 filed charges against O’Brien of disrespecting his superior and harming department credibility and morale.


Wisniewski asked the town police committee to consider firing O’Brien. The committee in October suspended O’Brien without pay through the end of 2009 and demoted him to patrolman with a lower salary.


O’Brien soon after filed an appeal in Walworth County Court requesting a reversal of the police committee decision.


The town and O’Brien in March reached a $75,000 settlement. O’Brien no longer is employed by the town.


The new complaint, signed by more than a dozen people and delivered to the town clerk last month, states Wisniewski violated as few as 10 and as many as 15 sections of a section of the municipal code that spells out the causes for suspension or termination of a police department employee.


The complaint, which accuses Wisniewski of several infractions that stem from the lawnmower incident, including lying to the sheriff’s office during an investigation, states “his inclination to retaliate has been a threat to local citizens and has hindered and done irreparable harm” to the town.


The complaint also states his “capricious and retaliatory mindset” has cost town taxpayers more than $100,000 for legal fees.


The residents who signed the complaint have asked the town board to place Wisniewski on administrative leave and convene the town police committee as soon as possible. They also have asked that Wisniewski undergo an updated background check, routine physical examination and psychological evaluation.


“We have reason to believe that Mr. Wisniewski could be a danger to himself or to the township as well,” the complaint states.



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