The Janesville Police and Fire Commission will decide today whether to accept Fire Chief Randy Banker’s motion to dismiss charges filed against him by a former employee, attorneys told The Gazette.
Donald “Jeff” Bowen originally filed three malfeasance in public office charges against Banker and wrote the complaint detailing those charges. His attorney, Victor Plantinga, has since consolidated the three charges into two and rewrote the complaint, he said.
Bowen was a Janesville fire inspector from April 2015 to April 2017. After quitting, he continued to volunteer as an associate adviser for Janesville Fire Department Explorer Post 555, according to the amended complaint.
In August, Banker learned that Bowen still had ties to the fire department through the post and demanded Lt. Paul VerHalen remove Bowen, according to the complaint.
“The motivation for this action was not a concern for the welfare of the explorer program or the students participating in the program,” Plantinga wrote in the amended complaint. “Rather, Banker’s motivation was related to Bowen’s unfavorable exit interview (with City Manager Mark Freitag) concerning Chief Banker’s leadership style.”
In an email to Freitag before the exit interview, Bowen criticized fire department leadership, including Banker, as rushed, arrogant, ignorant and inarticulate.
Banker denied the allegation in his motion to dismiss, which was filed earlier this month. He claimed, among other reasons, that he doesn’t have the authority to remove members from the explorer post.
Near the end of August, Banker called Janesville police and “willfully and dishonestly” filed a “false police report against Bowen,” according to the complaint.
Banker portrayed Bowen as mentally unstable and angry, and Fire Marshall Sue North told police Bowen was “increasingly confrontational” toward the end of his city employment, according to the complaint.
“Chief Banker’s dishonesty in this matter discredited both the office he holds and the organization he leads,” the complaint reads.
Banker denied that allegation in his motion. He admitted he spoke to police about Bowen but denied demanding an investigation, according to the motion.
According to a police report, Bowen had continued to pursue involvement in the explorer post after being told not to. Banker and other fire department employees had concerns with Bowen’s actions leading up to the report being filed, according the report.
Banker filed the motion to dismiss Bowen’s charges because they’re “facially groundless, frivolous, vague, based on conclusory statements and/or address conduct over which the board does not have jurisdiction,” the motion reads.
The commission will decide today whether to dismiss Bowen’s charges. If the charges proceed, Banker will have a hearing, tentatively scheduled for Feb. 15.
Bowen also has filed one malfeasance in public office charge each against VerHalen and North. Their hearings have been tentatively scheduled after Banker’s.