Janesville57°

Judge reverses decision on chief’s firing

Print Print
ANN MARIE AMES
May 7, 2010
— A Walworth County judge has reversed the town of Delavan’s 2007 decision to fire Police Chief Andrew Mayer.

Town officials are meeting with attorneys before deciding what do next.


Judge John Race on April 27 ruled in Mayer’s favor in a lawsuit Mayer filed in 2008. The lawsuit states, among other things, that the town did not have the authority to fire Mayer. State statutes require police officers to get a hearing before they are disciplined, suspended or terminated.


A key point in the case was Mayer’s contract, which included a clause that the town could fire Mayer without cause.


Mayer’s attorney, Tom Halloran, said the contract violated state law. The town argued that the contract should stand because Mayer signed it, Halloran said.


The law is in place to protect police and the public from the whims of elected officials, Halloran said.


“You can’t contract around an ordinance,” he said.


Race agreed. He ordered the matter sent back to the town’s police and fire commission for further review, court documents state. The five-member commission was the body that voted 3-0 to fire Mayer in 2007.


The next step isn’t clear.


Halloran said Race’s decision puts Mayer back on the town’s payroll. But Halloran agreed some changes might have to take place before Mayer gets back to work.


Phil Smith, who worked as deputy chief under Mayer, has been working as the police chief since Mayer was fired.


The town is researching what the next steps will be, Chairwoman Dorothy Burwell said.


Anything is possible, including a hearing or an appeal of Race’s decision, Halloran said.


Town Administrator John Olson said he could not comment on the case because it is in litigation.


The Gazette could not reach town attorney Bennett Brantmeier of Jefferson for comment.


The lawsuit was filed against three members of the town’s police and fire commission: Thomas Brauer, Carol Ancevic and Maria Odling, who voted to fire Mayer.


Commission members Robert Read and Todd Weise were not named in the lawsuit. During the meeting when Mayer was fired, Read was absent and Weise abstained, according to court documents.


Brauer, Weise, Odling and Ancevic still are members of the commission. Lowell Sweet joined the commission after Mayer was fired.


When asked, Halloran said Mayer’s case has similarities to the case of former Darien Police Chief Steve DeVoy. Halloran also was DeVoy’s attorney.


DeVoy argued he was wrongfully terminated by the village of Darien without a hearing in March 2009 after being suspended in December 2008. In November, the village and DeVoy settled before an evidentiary hearing.


DeVoy agreed to be reinstated and then resign. He was paid $30,000 and paid for the time he was suspended.


TIMELINE

1999—The town of Delavan hires Andrew Mayer to be police chief.


August 2007—Town Board Chairman Wayne Polzin asks town attorney Steve Wassel to investigate Mayer.


October 2007—The Delavan Town Police and Fire Commission terminates Mayer.


March 2008—Polzin files a complaint against Mayer with the Walworth County District Attorney’s Office. District Attorney Phil Koss declines to take action.


April 2008—Mayer runs unsuccessfully for a position on the town board.


May 2008—Town of Geneva police arrest Mayer on charges of intoxicated driving, carrying a concealed weapon and carrying a weapon while intoxicated. He is released on bond.


July 2008—Mayer files a lawsuit stating his termination violated state statutes.


December 2008—Mayer pleads guilty in Walworth County Court to a charge of operating a firearm while intoxicated. The charge of carrying a concealed weapon is dismissed but read into court records.


April 2010—Judge John Race agrees that the town violated state statues by firing Mayer. He orders the case sent back to the town.



Print Print