Town, Wilson want venue change

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February 1, 2011
— The town of Beloit and its former police chief have filed for a change of venue in the first of several federal cases pending against them.

Meanwhile, one of five current and former employees suing the chief has been placed on administrative leave, and the town board continues to talk about hiring an interim chief and a permanent one.

Former Town of Beloit Police Chief John Wilson and the town on Monday filed for a change of venue in a lawsuit filed by Anthony Smith, the owner of a local towing company. The change is necessary because of the media coverage of Smith's suit and others filed by department employees, according to court documents.

Smith, who is black, claims Wilson refused to put his business on the department's towing list because of Smith's race.

The case is scheduled to be heard in Madison in April. The motion requests it be moved to Superior, according to court documents.

The case has received substantial media coverage in southern Wisconsin, the documents state. The other pending lawsuits were filed by employees who claim Wilson retaliated against them when they spoke out against his racist behavior.

Wilson retired Jan. 17.

The town appointed Sgt. Laura Palmer acting chief and intends to hire an interim chief before hiring a permanent one, said town Administrator Bob Museus. One of three people who have filed papers to be considered as interim chief is Sgt. David Dransfield, one of the employees suing Wilson.

On Thursday, Dransfield said he was placed on paid administrative leave.

Dransfield said that according to a letter delivered to him and signed by Museus, Dransfield is being investigated for violating the town's harassment policies.

Beloit Town Board Chairman David Townsend confirmed Monday that Dransfield, who has worked for the town since 1984, is on administrative leave.

The town could consider creating one position to oversee its police and fire departments in the future. During a workshop meeting Monday, the board directed Museus to research how to conduct a feasibility study of such a position.

The change would not create a position but would create one administrator for the two departments and leave supervisors to oversee employees, Museus said. The town could save money with the change, he said.

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