A Rock County Board committee voted unanimously Monday to reject a resolution that would censure the sheriff, but the matter might still reach the full county board.
“I don’t like the politics of it,” said Terry Fell, a member of the public safety and justice committee, as he commented before the vote in a meeting at the county courthouse.
Committee members Mary Beaver, Hank Brill and Brian Knudson also voted “no.” A fifth committee member, Phil Owens, was not present.
Fell, a former chief deputy with the Rock County Sheriff’s Office, said after the meeting that voters should be able to decide on their own whether they want to keep Sheriff Bob Spoden.
Spoden, who attended the meeting but did not speak, is up for re-election in November.
The meeting was unusually well attended. Abigail Scieszinski was the only one to speak. She said Spoden is doing “a wonderful job” and that censure is “unnecessary.”
Scieszinski asked all who agreed with her to stand. About 20 stood.
The resolution, introduced by county board member Rick Richard, refers to Spoden’s actions when Janesville police investigated an accident at an underage drinking party at a Janesville residence.
Spoden’s son attended the party and was a close friend of Max Rammer, who like many at the party had graduated from Janesville Craig High School in June.
Rammer was injured in a pool at the residence, causing paralysis from the chest down, according to police reports.
Spoden contacted the police officer investigating those events, strongly suggesting that there was no reason to investigate. He also told Police Chief Dave Moore the party-goers were good kids from good families who were grieving over their injured friend and that the investigation was needlessly upsetting them, according to a report Moore wrote at the request of state investigators.
District Attorney David O’Leary, who referred the matter to the state attorney general, said later that Spoden should have known better than to interfere in an investigation.
The state Division of Criminal Investigation investigated and found no criminal wrongdoing.
Immediately after Monday’s meeting, Spoden went into a meeting with County Board Chairman Russ Podzilni.
Spoden said afterward that he would decide with his family in April whether he will run for re-election.
Capt. Gary Groelle of the sheriff’s office has already declared that he will run for sheriff, his second attempt.
Podzilni said after the meeting that if a majority of board members want the resolution on the county board agenda, he would be inclined to place it there. He said board bylaws state that only five board members are needed to place a matter on the agenda.
But Podzilni said Monday’s committee action was unexpected, so he was unprepared and needed to talk to the county corporation counsel to make sure he handles the matter properly.
Spoden handed out a statement after the meeting, saying in part: “I continue to remain focused on providing public safety services to the Rock County community. As a man of Christian faith, my thoughts and daily prayers continue to center on praying for both physical healing and emotional strength for Max Rammer, who is so very bravely dealing with paralysis as a result of an extremely tragic pool accident. ...
“Over the past six months, it has been heartening to witness the magnitude of community support shown to Max and his family as they endure the many complex facets of an unexpected, life-changing event,” the statement continues. “As a 30-year veteran of the law enforcement profession, I recognize and respect the members of the Rock County Board of Supervisors Public Safety and Justice Committee for their wisdom, understanding and professionalism in the handling of this matter. Additionally, I am tremendously grateful for the unwavering support I have received from my family, friends, constituents and other criminal justice professionals.”