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Beloit Town Board announces temporary chairman

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ANN MARIE AMES
January 11, 2011
— An unopposed candidate for Beloit Town Board chairman who favors firing the town's police chief will not get a head start on the job.

Instead, the board voted 3-1 on Monday to appoint board member Dave Townsend as temporary chairman to replace Greg Groves, who resigned Jan. 3. Voting were Townsend, Phil Tabor, Jim Stephens and Clerk Karry DeVault. Board member Dick LaMonte was absent.


Stephens nominated Townsend, and Tabor nominated Rob Pavlik, who filed nomination papers to run for chairman in the April general election.


After voting to move Townsend up to chairman, the board was unable to reach agreement on who should fill Townsend's board seat.


The board members and DeVault voted three times between Pavlik and resident Dave Sterna. Each time, the vote failed on a 2-2 split. The board decided to wait until LaMonte was present before trying again to replace Townsend.


Pavlik will be the only candidate on the April ballot to replace Groves, who served six years as a board member and had been chairman since 2006.


While Groves left the job abruptly, Town Administrator Bob Museus still is with the town after recently applying to be administrator in the town of Orange Park, Fla. Museus finished second in the running for Florida job. His decision to apply was not based on a desire to leave the town of Beloit but rather to advance his career, Museus told the Gazette.


The town has been mired in several legal struggles in the last two years. The most recent is a string of five lawsuits filed in federal court against the town and Police Chief John Wilson. One of those lawsuits, which claims racial discrimination, came into the spotlight Dec. 31, when attorney Anne Sulton posted a video of one of Wilson's depositions on YouTube. In the video, Wilson admits to using the "n" word at work.


Sulton is the attorney for Anthony Smith, who owns Flying AJ's Towing and is suing the town and Wilson; the case is scheduled to be heard in April in federal court in Madison.


Smith said Wilson would not include his business on the police department's call list because Smith is black.


In separate cases, Sulton and other attorneys represent three former and current police officers who are suing the town, alleging racism and retaliation against those who reported Wilson's racist behavior.


Pavlik said the video is "awful" and that the town board needs to work to restore the public's confidence. He said it is yet to be decided how the board will fix the situation, but he has lost confidence in Wilson.


"As much as I like John, or from what I've known of John, I can't honestly say I would have confidence with him staying," Pavlik said.


Museus last week accused Sulton of acting unprofessionally by trying her case in the media. The Wisconsin Supreme Court's rules prohibit attorneys from publicizing cases in a way that could influence potential jurors.


Jefferson attorney Bennett Brantmeier, who represents Wilson and the town in the case filed by Smith, said he would not comment on another attorney's ethics.


"I will say I was taught you try your case in the courtroom, not with the media," Brantmeier said. "Any attempt to do otherwise is improper."


An attorney for the Wisconsin Newspaper Association does not think the Wilson video violates the rule that prohibits attorneys from making statements that could prejudice a jury pool.


"I don't think it applies here," attorney James Friedman said. "You're not supposed to make a 'statement.' This is not really a statement. This is the sworn testimony of the chief."


While a deposition is not automatically a public document, attorneys for either side can file depositions with the court at any time, Friedman said. That would make them public documents, he said.


Sulton defended her actions, saying that accusations that she is trying to taint a jury pool are "insane." She is trying to educate the public about its officials, she said.


Few Gazette readers would be tapped for federal jury duty in Madison, and any who were influenced by the media would be weeded out before a trial, Sulton said.


"The chances of me having anybody from the town of Beloit on my jury are about zero percent," Sulton said.



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