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YMCA CEO Tom Den Boer placed on administrative leave

Tom Den Boer


Tom Den Boer, CEO of the YMCA of Northern Rock County, has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation the Y board launched last week, according to a statement from the board president.

The board has “placed CEO Tom Den Boer on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigative process,” wrote board President Steve Yeko Jr. in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.

Yeko did not give a reason for Den Boer being placed on administrative leave, but the board confirmed late Wednesday afternoon Den Boer continues to be paid while on leave.

Den Boer, who is the local Y’s top executive, had a total pay package in 2017 of $316,640 according to the Y’s most recent nonprofit IRS tax filing. He also is at the helm of the Y’s charitable arm, the YMCA of Northern Rock County Foundation, according to IRS tax forms the Y board supplied in response to an open records request by The Gazette.

According to a newsletter the Y board sent to its members Wednesday afternoon, Matt Gibson, the YMCA’s director of program operations, is handling executive duties in the interim.

The Y board last week announced it had hired Milwaukee law firm Foley & Lardner to assist in an investigation tied to concerns members and former board members had brought to the board in recent weeks.

Y members and former board members have been in an uproar in recent months over what they have called a lack of transparency among leadership at the Y over financial matters and governance—including what members called the improper dismissal of board members in 2017 and 2018 and suspension of Y members who said they asked to obtain Y records and posed pointed questions about Y leadership.

Members and former board members have said they have been stymied in their attempts to obtain Y board meeting minutes, financial filings and other documents from the Y. Some members claim they had gotten banned from setting foot in the Y’s Janesville and Milton locations after they asked for paperwork.

Yeko called the board’s latest moves, which apparently were handled in a board meeting Tuesday, “a proactive approach to addressing concerns that have been raised by members of the organization and our community.”

In his statement, Yeko also wrote that three board members who say they were removed in 2017 and 2018 without a board vote are being invited to “immediately resume an active role on the board.”

According to interviews with the former board members and emails obtained by The Gazette, the three terminated board members are Larry Squire, Dan Honold and Jeff LaBrozzi. All three said they were removed from the board unilaterally by former Y board President Jason Engledow after they questioned financial decisions or asked for documents that more clearly explain the YMCA’s governance.

LaBrozzi has said he believes some board members had never seen the Y’s bylaws.

Honold gave The Gazette an email he said shows Den Boer initially tried to kick him off the board in 2017 after Honold questioned a proposal that a loan be refinanced through a bank company Engledow worked for at the time.

Honold told Den Boer that the Y’s bylaws don’t allow a CEO to remove board members. Engledow, then the board president, sent Honold an email telling Honold he was off the board. Engledow and Den Boer claimed Honold had broken board rules by failing to donate to an annual fundraiser, Honold said.

LaBrozzi in a letter he shared with The Gazette this week informed the Y board that he reviewed bylaws the board supplied, and he believed he had been dismissed without due process. He told the board he planned to attend future Y board meetings and asked the board to reach out to him if they had concerns.

LaBrozzi, Honold and Squire are being invited to participate in the board’s next meeting, which is slated Monday, Yeko wrote. It was not immediately clear if they plan to attend.

The board did not respond to a Gazette inquiry about whether a consideration of Den Boer’s employment will be on the agenda of Monday’s board meeting.

Yeko said in the statement that the board has agreed to invite potential new board members recommended this week by a group of concerned members. The group has asked the board to elect four new, additional Y members “as soon as possible” to show the Y’s membership that the board is serious about responding to member concerns.

The Y board’s membership had dwindled to nine members, although in recent weeks the Y’s website showed 14 board members. Under its bylaws, the Y must maintain a board of at least 11 members.

Yeko said election of additional board members is something the board plans to do quickly.

“The board considered the requests conveyed by a group of YMCA members over the weekend and agreed to add a minimum of four new members to the board,” Yeko wrote. “The board will be inviting potential board members named by these YMCA members to submit an application, which will be subject to regular board review and consideration but at an accelerated pace.”

Larry Barton, an attorney representing four “concerned” YMCA members who pressed for additional board members to be elected, said Wednesday his group is pleased with the board’s decisions this week.

“We’re very happy with how this is going,” Barton said.

Tom Den Boer

Trump willl give State of Union after shutdown ends


President Donald Trump said Wednesday night he is postponing his State of the Union address until the partial government shutdown ends, yielding after a weeklong showdown with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Following a high-stakes game of dare and double-dare, Trump conceded there’s “no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber” and that he was not looking for an alternate option after Pelosi served notice earlier Wednesday that he won’t be allowed to deliver the address to a joint session of Congress next week.

Pelosi had taken the step after Trump said he planned to show up in spite of Democratic objections to the speech taking place with large swaths of the government shut down.

Denied that grand venue, Trump promised to come up with some sort of alternative event. The White House scrambled to find a site matching the gravitas of the traditional address from the rostrum of the House to lawmakers from both parties, Supreme Court justices, invited guests and a television audience of millions.

“As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed,” Trump tweeted. “She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative—I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over.”

Fireworks over the speech shot back and forth between the Capitol and the White House as the monthlong partial government shutdown showed no signs of ending and about 800,000 federal workers faced the prospect of going without their second paycheck in a row come Friday.

Pelosi told Trump the House wouldn’t approve a resolution allowing him to address Congress until the shutdown ended. Trump shot back that Pelosi was afraid of hearing the truth.

“I think that’s a great blotch on the incredible country that we all love,” Trump said earlier Wednesday. “It’s a great, great horrible mark.”

The drama surrounding the speech began last week when Pelosi asked Trump to make other plans but stopped short of denying him the chamber for his address. Trump called her bluff Wednesday in a letter, saying he intended to come anyway.

“It would be so very sad for our Country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location,” he wrote.

Pelosi quickly squelched the speech, writing back that the House “will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the President’s State of the Union address in the House Chamber until government has opened.”

The president cannot speak in front of a joint session of Congress without both chambers’ explicit permission. A resolution needs to be approved by both chambers specifying the date and time for receiving an address from the president.

The gamesmanship unfolded as the Senate prepared to vote this week on dueling proposals on the shutdown. A Republican plan would give Trump money for the wall. A proposal from Democrats would re-open government through Feb. 8, with no wall money, giving bargainers time to talk.

Both proposals were likely to fail to reach the 60-vote threshold needed in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 53-47 majority. As well, House Democrats were putting forward a new proposal, aiming to lure Trump away from his demand for a border wall by offering billions of new dollars for other border security measures.

The Constitution states only that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union,” meaning the president can speak anywhere he chooses or give his update in writing.

The address has been delayed before. Ronald Reagan’s 1986 State of the Union address was postponed after the Challenger space shuttle exploded in flight on Jan. 28 of that year.

But there is no precedent for a State of the Union invitation being rescinded.

Presidents Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter issued their final messages in print. As Eisenhower recovered from a heart attack in 1956, he prepared a seven-minute, filmed summary of the message from his retreat in Key West, Florida, that was broadcast nationwide. Richard Nixon sent a printed message in 1973; his staff said an oral message would have come too soon after his second inaugural address.

White House officials had been working on a backup plan to have Trump give the speech somewhere else if Democrats blocked access to the House chamber. Nevertheless, they were rattled by Pelosi’s move Wednesday and expressed concern it would further sour shutdown negotiations.

Officials had been considering a speech in the Senate chamber and a visit to a state on the southern border. Multiple versions of the speech were being drafted to suit the final venue. Trump has been presented with a series of options for making the address and is expected to decide within the next day or so, said a person familiar with White House discussions but not authorized to speak publicly about them.

Pelosi said that when she extended her Jan. 3 invitation to Trump to deliver the State of the Union address on Jan. 29, there was no thought that the government would still be shut down.

She wrote Wednesday: “I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been opened.”

Moments after her letter became public, Trump told reporters he wasn’t surprised by Pelosi’s action. Democrats have become “radicalized,” he claimed. He expanded on those sentiments during a subsequent event at the White House, calling the cancellation a “disgrace” and asserting that Pelosi didn’t want to hear the truth about the need for better border security.

The White House and Democratic lawmakers have been accusing one another of pettiness since Pelosi raised doubts about the speech. Trump followed up by revoking her use of a military plane for a congressional delegation visit to Afghanistan.

North Carolina’s House speaker, Tim Moore, invited Trump to deliver the speech in the North Carolina House chamber. Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield has offered his state capitol. Trump spoke with both of them this week, according to Moore’s office and a tweet from Chatfield.

Anthony Wahl 

Brandy Old Fashioned

Obituaries and death notices for Jan. 24, 2019

Scott K. Balas

Russell O. Dillinder

Nora C. Kuhnke

Arthur C. Pratt

Officials don't see a future role for existing Milton fire station


Milton fire officials don’t recommend keeping the city’s outdated fire station at 614 W. Madison St. much longer, according to a recently released report.

Former Fire Chief Randy Banker, who oversaw the Janesville and Milton fire departments, and other officials believe modernizing the Milton station is not ideal because of cost and location, according to the report.

In August, the Milton Joint Fire Commission asked Banker and fire staff to provide a report with four potential options for a new station.

The four options include:

  • Renovating or replacing the fire station at its current location.
  • Renovating the existing station and building a shared fire station with the Janesville Fire Department on the north side of Janesville.
  • Building a new fire station within the Milton fire district.
  • Building a shared station with the Janesville Fire Department on Janesville’s north side and building a new station in the Milton fire district.

The report advises against the first two options. However, the commission could choose to ignore that recommendation.

Milton’s fire station was built in the 1970s by members of the fire department.

The facility’s heating and cooling systems, lighting, showers, locker areas, office and storage space, training areas and emergency vehicle parking are now outdated and inadequate. Handicapped-accessible upgrades are also needed, according to the report.

Remodeling the old station requires partial or full demolition, which increases the cost. Officials believe it will be more cost-effective to build a new facility in a better location to serve the 90-square-mile fire district, according to the report.

The report’s authors support the third and fourth options.

If the commission chooses to build one new station, officials recommend building it in a central location within the fire district.

A new station is estimated to cost $4.4 million to $5.1 million. Selling the existing fire station property could reduce that price tag, according to the report.

Officials recommend locating the new station north of the city of Milton if the commission chooses to build a new station and partner with Janesville on a shared station, according to the report.

The Janesville and Milton fire departments began sharing services in early 2016. One year later, Banker suggested the cities eventually could build a shared fire station on property at County Y and Overland Trail, The Gazette has reported.

The Janesville Fire Department eventually will build a station on the parcel, but it is waiting on Milton’s decision before making plans.

A consulting firm hired by Milton officials in 2015 also suggested that the two municipalities share fire services.

Contributing to a shared station with Janesville is estimated to cost Milton $1.2 million to $1.5 million in addition to the millions of dollars for a new Milton fire station, according to the report.

Joint fire commission members who spoke to The Gazette on Wednesday agreed the facilities process will be lengthy and there is still much to learn.

They also agreed discussion of a new station will be affected by the hiring of a new chief to replace Banker. A Janesville commission has narrowed the search to five finalists, including Jim Ponkauskas, interim fire chief for both departments.

Jon Jennings, a town of Milton representative, said he is excited for the Milton Fire Department to find its identity with new facilities and potential new staffing options.

Theresa Rusch, a city of Milton representative, said she hopes to hear from firefighters, EMTs and paramedics about what they want.

Lynda Clark, also a city representative, wants the public to help the commission.

The three members said they were waiting to hear from the rest of the commission before choosing a preferred option. The Gazette was unable to reach Chairman Bryan Meyer for comment.

The commission is expected to discuss the report at its next meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 20 at Milton Town Hall, 23 First St., Milton.