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Jury finds town of Beloit retaliated against employees

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ANN MARIE AMES
May 13, 2011
— A jury on Thursday found that former town of Beloit Police Chief John Wilson and other town officials violated two employees’ rights after they spoke against Wilson’s behavior in the workplace.

Thursday was the fourth day of the trial filed by town of Beloit Court Clerk Mary Abegglen and her husband, former Sgt. Willis Abegglen, against Wilson and the town.


The jury found that Wilson; Administrator Bob Museus; town board members Phil Taber and Dick LaMonte; and former town board members Shannon Ladwig, Dave Townsend and Greg Groves retaliated against statements the Abegglens made that were protected by federal employment laws.


According to court documents, Mary Abegglen claimed she engaged in protected activity when she told Wilson she would not lie about his use of racial slurs in the workplace, answered an investigator’s questions about Wilson’s language and joined a union complaint against Wilson.


Wilson was accused of and admitted to using the N-word and other racist phrases in the workplace.


Mary Abegglen claimed the town retaliated against her by reducing her hours from 40 to 30 per week in 2009 and from 30 to 20 in 2010, according to court documents.


Willis Abegglen claimed he engaged in protected activity when he talked to Wilson about Wilson’s aggressive demeanor toward an employee when Wilson was accused of discriminating against that employee.


Willis Abegglen claimed the town retaliated by demoting him from deputy chief to sergeant in 2009, subjecting him to multiple internal investigations and “constructively discharging” him in 2010, court documents state.


He retired in February 2010, one day before a law enforcement disciplinary committee was to meet and talk about the possibility of firing him, Museus said at the time. Retiring because work conditions are intolerable is referred to as “constructive discharge,” according to online court documents.


The trial is the second in a month in federal court in Madison against the town and Wilson. Another jury in April found that Wilson took race into consideration when he didn’t hire a local towing company. However, Wilson did not violate the man’s rights, the jury decided.


Four more cases filed by current or former employees against the town are pending in federal court and expected to be tried in the fall.



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