Janesville City Council president resigns

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Thursday, November 10, 2011
— The Janesville City Council will likely discuss Monday whether to name a replacement for Council President George Brunner, who announced his resignation Wednesday.

The council also could decide whether to elect a new council president.

In a prepared statement issued Wednesday, Brunner wrote that he was reacting to an emotional, personal situation when he shoved and then struck Janesville Police Lt. Keith Lawver late Friday.

"I only hope and pray that others do not have to experience similar family situations and ask that people not judge others when not knowing the history, circumstances, or the facts," Brunner wrote.

Resignation was a difficult choice, he wrote.

"This decision has weighed heavily on my shoulders for the past several days," Brunner wrote. "Whatever I have done in the past does not matter, as one is judged only on what they did last."

The council has the authority to appoint a replacement for Brunner, whose seat would expire in 2013, City Clerk Jean Wulf has said. The seat would then be up for election in April for a special one-year term, she said.

Vice President Russ Steeber will serve as interim president until the council decides whether to elect a new president, City Manager Eric Levitt said. The council could choose to keep Steeber as president or elect someone else, Levitt said.

The council's discussion will be in open session, he said.

Police were called to the Brunner home at 2423 Stonefield Lane at 9:51 p.m. Friday to support caseworkers from Rock County Child Protective Services, according to police reports. Caseworkers were investigating the living conditions of a 1-month-old infant and were trying to get the baby's mother to stay at the Brunner home or with another relative.

The mother, whose name was redacted from police reports to protect the baby's identity, refused to stay with relatives, and child protective services took custody of the child, according to police reports.

When the caseworker left the house with the baby, several people in the home reacted by shouting. Brunner, a former Janesville police chief, knocked a lamp off a table and then shoved Lawver hard enough to pop the latch on a screen door, according to police reports. He struck Lawver's chest and arms with the sides of his fists and then locked his legs to avoid being escorted into a squad car, according to police reports.

He was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting an officer.

In his statement, Brunner apologized to child protective services, the police department, the community and his family.

Brunner told police Friday that he would resign, but on Monday he told reporters he was undecided.

Steeber said Wednesday he had encouraged Brunner to stay on the council. Brunner's actions Friday were driven by emotion and were a "mistake of the heart" rather than an intentional act, Steeber said.

"I think he has been very, very much a great public servant," Steeber said. "He's been a person that's been a good steward of tax dollars. He personally will be missed by me. I think his resignation comes as a great loss to the city."

Steeber said he did not have an opinion Wednesday about whether the council should work quickly to fill Brunner's seat. Along with regular city business, the council this month will hold two public hearings on next year's budget and approve the budget.

Council member Yuri Rashkin agreed that Brunner has been a good public servant for nearly 50 years. He's been great to work with and helpful to Rashkin as a council member, he said.

"He's brought so much experience You don't have 50 years of experience without learning a thing or two," Rashkin said.

Levitt will work with Steeber to set council agendas as is the usual practice, Levitt said.

Last updated: 6:56 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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