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Town of Beloit police chief set to retire

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ANN MARIE AMES
January 18, 2011
— The town of Beloit plans to immediately get to work to replace controversial Police Chief John Wilson, who on Monday announced plans to retire.

However, the replacement process might not be a quick one, said town board Chairman Dave Townsend.


Wilson is a defendant in several federal lawsuits that are pending against the town and its administration.


In a different and very quick replacement, the board and Clerk Karry DeVault unanimously voted to install resident Rob Pavlik as a temporary board member. Pavlik is running unopposed as the town board chairman in the April election.


Pavlik took a seat and participated in the second half of Monday night's regular board meeting.


He will fill the remainder of Townsend's seat as a board member.


The board last week appointed Townsend to replace former Chairman Greg Groves, who resigned earlier this month. Groves already had filed papers stating he would not run for re-election in April.


Townsend started the meeting by reading Wilson's retirement letter, which Wilson filed at 4 p.m. Monday.


The announcement seemed to take some of the fire out of residents who spoke during the meeting. Many said they had planned to call for Wilson's resignation.


Many did, however, call for Administrator Bob Museus' resignation, saying Museus should have taken stronger action against Wilson.


In the last few years, many employees and residents have complained to the town about Wilson.


In early 2009, the town reprimanded Wilson in writing and required him to take a sensitivity class after the police union in late 2008 filed a complaint against him. At the time, Museus said the matter was politically motivated.


The federal lawsuits state Wilson used racial slurs and made decisions with a racist attitude. Some of the suits state Wilson retaliated against employees who complained about his behavior.


The first lawsuit is scheduled to be heard in April in federal court in Madison.


Wilson has worked for the town of Beloit since 2003. He retired as the Bollingbrook, Ill., police chief in 1997.


One person spoke in Wilson's favor. Town of Beloit police officer Daphne Fischer said Wilson made a lot of positive, necessary changes in the department when he was hired.


He has made mistakes, "but there's a lot that he did right," Fischer said.


Former town of Beloit police officer Chris Luzinski said the board was aware of the problems facing the department and could have acted sooner. Luzinski is one of the people suing Wilson and the town in federal court.


"I know, and hopefully everyone else knows, that over a two-year period, I went up to all of you and reported what I saw," Luzinski said.


Resident Tim McKearn doesn't think Wilson's resignation will fix the town's problem. When businesses or families get a sense of racism in a community, they choose to locate elsewhere, McKearn said.


"The damage that's been done might take a generation to undo," he said.


Town resident Howard Richie was more optimistic and called on the board members to hire managers who will "be respectful of everybody's feelings."


"If you treat each one the way you want to be treated, I think our community will survive this," Richie said.



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