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Panel hears case in Edgerton bar dispute

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
October 19, 2011
— Edgerton's Police Commission held a special hearing Tuesday over an Edgerton police officer's response to a dispute between a downtown bar owner and a tenant at a bar June 30.

The commission heard over four hours of testimony drawn from a slew of witnesses subpoenaed by Edgerton resident Mark McCoy, a real estate consultant and a friend of former Wile E's bar owner Mike Whaley of Stoughton.


Whaley had a lease at 12 W. Fulton St., where he owned and operated Wile E's bar since 2008, but businessman John Werkmeister bought the bar and issued Whaley an eviction notice in June with a deadline of midnight June 30. Werkmeister wanted to put in his own restaurant at the location.


McCoy filed a complaint with the city's police commission in July alleging that Edgerton police officer Brody Kapellen came to Wile E's numerous times on the night of June 30, and ultimately forced Whaley to leave the bar two hours before his lease expired.


The complaint states that Kapellen demanded Whaley leave by 10 p.m., even as Whaley and several of his friends were tying to pack up property and vacate Wile E's that night by midnight, as the eviction notice required.


According to the complaint and several people who testified at the hearing, Kapellen yelled at Whaley and the people helping Whaley remove property at the bar and told them to leave. The complaint states Kapellen blocked the door to the bar and pointed his finger in Whaley's face, yelling "Get out!"


Kapellen testified during the hearing Tuesday that he'd come to Wile E's multiple times June 30 to keep the peace in a tenancy dispute that was shaping up to become messy. He denied commanding anyone to leave and said he had an understanding that Whaley and Workmeister had agreed Whaley would be out by 10 p.m.


Multiple witnesses testifying Tuesday said Kapellen came to Wile E's after Werkmiester alerted him that Whaley and others on were removing beverage tapper equipment and other fixtures from the bar. They said he was worried about property damage at the bar. Werkmeister testified Tuesday that he approached Kapellen about the situation while the officer was parked on a traffic detail near downtown.


Witnesses said the dispute was resolved without violence or arrests, although some testified that Whaley and others had been drinking. A locksmith changed the locks at the bar before 11 p.m.


Whaley testified Tuesday that he'd only agreed to be out by 10 p.m. because he was worried about getting arrested because Kapellen had come to the bar.


McCoy interviewed witnesses at the hearing Tuesday while City Attorney Dale Pope, who was representing Kapellen, cross-examined the witnesses.


Janesville attorney David Moore presided over the hearing. The committee reached no decision on the hearing Tuesday, but Moore said it would register a written decision within three days. It's not clear whether Kapellen faces discipline for the situation.


The hearing was described on an agenda as a "hearing to gather information," but in a Sept. 7 letter to McCoy, police commission President Dave Gorski wrote that the commission had decided it wouldn't support suspension, demotion or termination of Kapellen even if McCoy's complaint were found to be true.


McCoy argued that Kapellen broke city policy by getting in the middle of a civil tenancy issue and forcing people to leave and then lied about it later in official reports filed with Rock County, in which Kapellen denied telling anyone to leave Wiley's June 30.


Pope said Kapellen was simply trying to maintain the peace at the bar and was put in a tough spot.



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