Janesville50.2°

Town of Beloit drama goes viral

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
January 5, 2011
— An attorney who posted a video online of the town of Beloit police chief admitting he used the “n” word at work said she hopes the video inspires residents to act.

The video, posted Dec. 31 by attorney Anne Sulton, includes excerpts of a deposition in September of Chief John Wilson. Sulton represents four clients suing the town and the chief on charges that include racism.


Sulton said she posted the clip on YouTube—and intends to post others—to reach the town’s residents.


“Do they really want to spend a million dollars defending racism?” she asked.


Sulton said the chief should be fired.


Town Administrator Bob Museus accused Sulton of acting unprofessionally by trying her case in the media.


Wilson was deposed for lawsuits that grew out of allegations of racism. The town reprimanded him in early 2009 for using racially derogatory language. Wilson has not repeated the conduct, Museus said.


Sulton represents Anthony Smith, whose lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial in federal court in April. Smith owns Flying AJ’s Towing and alleges that Wilson refused to add Smith’s business to the list of companies that tow vehicles for the town because Smith is black.


In separate cases, Sulton represents three former and current police officers who are suing the town, alleging racism and retaliation against those who reported Wilson’s behavior.


In total, five current and former police department employees and Smith have filed lawsuits against the town in federal court.


“I don’t think there’s any place for this conduct for law enforcement, period,” Sulton said.


Sulton plans to post another video showing excerpts of Museus’ deposition that “will point out Mr. Museus’ attitude that there really is no need to punish this kind of conduct.”


She accuses the town of hiring Wilson to implement a policy of racial discrimination.


“I think that the town board wanted to keep the town lily white,” she said. “And one way how you do that is, you have a police force that makes you feel uncomfortable. You have a police force that has a reputation of giving non-white people a hard time.


“I want the people of the town of Beloit to know what is going on in their community and to make a conscious decision about the direction of their community,” Sulton said. “What the chief is doing reflects poorly on that entire community.


“I don’t believe that the people who live in the town of Beloit share the racist attitude of the police chief and the town board … I think they get up every day and go to work. They need to pay attention to what’s going on in this community. They have people who are hurting—not just black people, but white people.”


The Gazette could not reach Wilson on Wednesday afternoon.


Museus said the lawsuits will not cost the town a million dollars because it has an insurance company that will pay.


He also said it “simply is not true” that the town has a policy of racial discrimination.


“We have hired minority officers. We’ve hired women,” Museus said. “There is no evidence of any racially discriminatory action brought to light that we know of.


“The allegations being made against the chief are nothing new,” Museus said.


The allegations were investigated in 2009 by an outside consultant who found Wilson used racially discriminatory language.


Wilson was reprimanded in writing and ordered to take counseling or sensitivity training, according to earlier reports. Wilson took a four-hour training course.


“He’s been reprimanded, and since that time, he has not used that language,” Museus said.


The chief is still working because he still has the town board’s confidence, Museus said.


“We believe that attorney Sulton is behaving unprofessionally here,” he said.


“We don’t try cases in the press. Whatever she’s saying is being done for her own purpose. She obviously has her own motivation,” Museus said.


The suits represent an ongoing conflict between the chief and ex-officers who stand to benefit financially, he said.


“That’s what we don’t want to get into. This case will be tried in court, where it belongs.”


As far as Sulton’s posting of Museus’ deposition online, he said: “I have no concern there.”


In another town development, the town board chairman resigned Monday. Greg Groves was a board member for almost nine years. He said this morning that he resigned for reasons that “I just don’t care to discuss.


“I had a good run,” Groves said. “I thank the board members, the department heads, the employees. They’re super.”



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