Town of Beloit lawsuit dismissed

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011
— A federal judge has dismissed a case filed by a former town of Beloit police officer, ruling in favor of the town.

The suit by David Dransfield is one of six lawsuits that deal with allegations of racist and discriminatory words and actions by former town Police Chief John Wilson.

Dransfield failed to show that Wilson retaliated against him because of Dransfield's opposition to Wilson's alleged conduct, federal district Judge William Conley wrote in a ruling issued Thursday.

Dransfield, a former sergeant with the department, is now retired. He said in September 2010 that Wilson physically threatened Dransfield and others for supporting union complaints against Wilson.

Dransfield also alleged that Wilson retaliated by moving Dransfield to third shift, removing him from his role as department trainer and threatening to fire him.

Dransfield was placed on administrative leave in February 2011 and then retired.

A federal jury in May awarded $1.49 million in damages to Willie and Mary Abegglen, a former police sergeant and the current court clerk for the town. The Abegglens alleged retaliation by town officials after they complained that Wilson used racial comments and created a hostile work environment.

In another case, the owner of a Beloit towing company alleged Wilson made racial slurs and discriminated against the company's owner, who is black. A federal jury found that race was a factor when Wilson denied the towing company a contract, but the jury also found that there were reasons other than race for denying the contract, meaning the town was not liable for damages.

Attorney Michael J. Cieslewicz represents the town in the Dransfield and in three related lawsuits.

"We're pleased but not surprised, frankly. We always thought Mr. Dransfield's case was not a strong one under the federal law," Cieslewicz said.

Wilson retired in January. Steve Kopp, formerly of the Janesville Police Department, was appointed interim chief in February and permanent chief in August.

Kopp said the department would like to put the past behind it and move forward.

The next case Judge Conley is handling is set for trial in December, Cieslewicz said. It involves similar allegations by police officer David Burkee.

Last updated: 6:48 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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