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Government
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Janesville names new fire chief

JANESVILLE

Ernest G. Rhodes III, a former fire chief in Missouri and director of that state’s emergency management agency, has been named chief of the Janesville Fire Department from a slate of four finalists.

The Janesville Police and Fire Commission chose Rhodes on Wednesday night following two days of closed-session interviews and deliberations. Rhodes replaces former Chief Randy Banker, who retired last month.

Rhodes was the fire chief of the West County EMS and Fire Protection District in Missouri for five years until 2017. He left for a job as the state director of the Missouri Emergency Management Agency. He has also worked on various Federal Emergency Management Agency teams since 2000.

Rhodes could not immediately be reached for comment.

DuWayne Severson, chairman of the commission, said Rhodes will work with Janesville’s Human Resources Director Sue Musick to determine when he will start and his salary. Severson said those details will likely be ironed out by the end of the week and that Rhodes could begin in about a month.

Severson lauded Rhodes’ experience Wednesday night, pointing to his leadership “in all facets of fire safety.” Rhodes has held various positions in fire service, Severson said, and he was the only candidate who has worked for state and federal agencies.

“He’s an exceptional candidate with a broad range of fire experience that will benefit the city of Janesville,” Severson said.

Severson said the commission asked candidates in interviews about their experience sharing services with other departments, in part because the Janesville Fire Department shares administrative services with the Milton Fire Department.

A report last month indicated Milton’s fire station is outdated and recommended building a new one.

Rhodes’ hiring also comes as tensions between city administration and Janesville’s fire union linger. Janesville Fire Fighters Local 580 President Jason Daskam told The Gazette in October the city mishandled contract negotiations and strained the working relationship between the two sides.

Severson said the commission asked how each candidate has generally navigated relationships with unions during candidate interviews but steered clear of discussing specifics.

According to the Jefferson City News Tribune, Rhodes is named as a defendant in a civil lawsuit filed in Missouri court. A former deputy director of the Missouri Emergency Management Agency alleges Rhodes, the agency’s director at the time, discriminated against her for being an older woman.

The employee claims Rhodes did not meet with her to discuss her job, that he was partial to male employees and that she was put on administrative leave after filing a complaint, according to the News Tribune.

Severson said the commission discussed the lawsuit with Rhodes during interviews. He said the commission felt comfortable hiring Rhodes after reviewing the lawsuit.

The other finalists for the position were:

  • John C. Clark, fire chief, Baker City, Oregon.
  • Jim Ponkauskas, the interim Janesville fire chief who was Banker’s deputy fire chief.
  • James P. Zarek, deputy fire chief, DeKalb, Illinois.

Crime
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Suspect in Janesville gun homicide to be transferred to mental health facility

JANESVILLE

Lucas Stuhr, the man accused in the gunfire homicide of a Janesville man in January, will be transferred to a secure mental health facility until he is competent to stand trial, a judge decided Wednesday.

Rock County Judge Barbara McCrory said she would enter an order for Stuhr to be transferred to a mental health facility as soon as a bed is available.

McCrory said a doctor who conducted a court-ordered competency evaluation of Stuhr has determined Stuhr suffers from “major depressive disorder” and “cannabis use disorder.”

Based on the doctor’s recommendations, McCrory said she doesn’t believe Stuhr in his mental condition is competent enough to make rational decisions, understand court proceedings or assist attorneys who are working to defend him.

McCrory agreed with the doctor’s assessment that inpatient treatment at a mental health facility would be the preferred method to try to restore Stuhr’s mental competency.

According to the National Institutes of Health, people may be diagnosed with cannabis use disorder if they show several symptoms of chronic cannabis use, including withdrawal, lack of control and negative effects on personal responsibilities.

The group says there can be a link between cannabis use disorder and other mental health disorders, and some with severe cannabis use disorder can experience “considerable mental disability.”

Stuhr, 39, of Browntown is accused of shooting to death Clifford A. Grice, 41, on Jan. 23 while Grice was seated in his own car in the driveway of his home on Janesville’s south side.

Authorities believe Grice was in a romantic relationship with Stuhr’s ex-girlfriend. The ex-girlfriend was seated next to Grice and was at close range when Stuhr pulled open the driver’s side door and shot Grice, according to a criminal complaint.

The ex-girlfriend told police Stuhr earlier had threatened to kill himself and her because he was distraught that she was seeing another man, according to the complaint.

In January, Stuhr’s attorney asked that Stuhr undergo a competency evaluation by a doctor because of undisclosed “concerns” that arose during an earlier evaluation by the state Public Defender’s Office.

McCrory ruled Stuhr will be transferred to Mendota Mental Health Institute or Winnebago Mental Health Institute. She said the facility would need to be able to provide assurances it can handle a patient in custody on charges of a violent crime.

Under the order, the mental health facility would be required to provide quarterly reports to the court on Stuhr’s treatment and his mental status, and the court would conduct status hearings on Stuhr’s case based on those reports.

Defense attorney Walter Isaacson said Stuhr is being required to take medication, which Isaacson said Stuhr has said he understands might help stabilize his mental state.


Obituaries and death notices for Feb. 21, 2019

Glenn A. Babcock Jr.

Richard C. Boss Jr.

Dolores M. Jones

William C. Kerr

Patrick T. “Pat” McCarville

Betty J. Murphy