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Janesville Council President Brunner arrested in family custody dispute

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
November 6, 2011
— Janesville City Council President George Brunner’s future as a public official is unclear after he was arrested at his home Friday during a family custody dispute.

The former Janesville police chief and six-year city council member told a Janesville police officer he planned to resign from the city council after he was arrested Friday night for misdemeanor disorderly conduct and resisting and obstructing an officer.


Brunner, 71, was arrested after he hit an officer in the chest and arm and pushed the officer out the door at his house at 2423 Stonefield Lane, according to incident reports released Saturday by the Janesville Police Department.


Some names of people in the incident were redacted from the reports to protect the identities of minors, the department said.


Repeated efforts to reach Brunner by telephone were unsuccessful Saturday.


According to police reports, officers were called to Brunner’s home shortly before 10 p.m. Friday to assist Child Protective Services workers in a custody investigation over a month-old infant male.


Two officers at the home were assigned to keep Brunner and two other family members apart from a fourth family member, who is the mother of the infant. She was talking with police and Child Protective Services personnel about possible temporary custody arrangements for the infant.


Police reported that there was some concern about living conditions at the mother’s residence.


The family could not agree on several options for temporarily placing the infant with family members. None of the plans involved placing the infant in direct custody of its mother, according to the police report.


A Child Protective Services worker at the house decided the agency would take custody of the infant, and she told the family that she planned to notify the infant’s father.


At that point, Brunner reportedly became “very heated,” and “batted” at a glass lamp, according to police reports.


At the time, a person was carrying the infant in a child safety seat. The lamp hit the safety seat, narrowly missing the infant’s head, according to police reports.


As the worker was escorting the infant out of the house for transport, Brunner reportedly charged at an officer who was standing by the door.


According to police reports, Brunner began to hit the officer in the chest and arms with the sides of his fists, while he drove the officer back into a screen door, pushing the officer outside the home.


Police then placed Brunner under arrest, and attempted to put him in a squad car. During the arrest, Brunner reportedly resisted officers by attempting to lock his arms and legs. Brunner allegedly said to an officer, “Don’t do this,” telling the officer “You have discretion.”


While police drove Brunner to the Janesville Police Department, Brunner repeatedly apologized and asked not to be arrested, telling police at the time that he planned to resign from the city council, according to police reports.


Brunner was cited for disorderly conduct and resisting and obstructing. He was later released with a court date.


Brunner’s daughter, Barbara J. Rutherford, 41, of 1557 Kenwood Ave., Beloit, also was cited for disorderly conduct for yelling and causing a disturbance, according to police reports.


It’s not clear whether Brunner, who was Janesville’s police chief for 10 years, and who in June introduced an ethics policy focused on conduct of city council members, still intends to resign from the council.


According to the Wisconsin state Elections Board, misdemeanor violations legally are not considered to be “violations of the public trust.”


If Brunner does in fact step down, it’s not clear how his position on the council would be filled, or who could take over as the next city council president.


The Gazette also was unable to reach members of the Janesville City Council for comment.



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