Nothing will come of a former Janesville Fire Department fire inspector’s charges of malfeasance in public office against three department employees, including the chief.
Attorneys for both sides agreed Thursday to allow the former employee, Donald “Jeff” Bowen, to withdraw his remaining charges after the Janesville Police and Fire Commission ruled last week to dismiss charges against Chief Randy Banker.
The commission was set to meet Thursday night to schedule hearings for Fire Marshal Sue North and Lt. Paul VerHalen. The meeting was canceled after the attorneys agreed to dismiss, said Paul Schwarzenbart, the commission’s consulted attorney.
“The outcome against Chief Banker wasn’t what we had hoped for, and we thought it similarly would have been an uphill battle with the counts against VerHalen and North,” said Victor Plantinga, Bowen’s attorney.
Plantinga hasn’t heard from Bowen any plans to appeal the commission’s ruling to dismiss the charge against Banker. Bowen’s wife recently died, and he’s sorting through that, Plantinga said.
A year ago, Bowen left the fire department after receiving discipline he thought unfair. He had an exit interview with City Manager Mark Freitag during which he criticized department leadership, including Banker.
Last summer, VerHalen removed Bowen from a volunteer position on an explorer post, a youth program chartered by the department’s union and the Boy Scouts of America. Bowen protested the decision.
In his charges, Bowen claimed Banker, VerHalen and North lied to police about his mental state and work history as retaliation for what Bowen said in his exit interview.
After hearing hours of testimony, the commission voted March 1 to dismiss the charge against Banker, claiming Bowen didn’t provide enough evidence of wrongdoing. The charges against Banker were the same as those against VerHalen and North.
During the previous meeting, Banker’s attorney, Mark Kopp, called the complaints a “colossal waste of everybody’s time and … money.”
Plantinga said he was grateful for the time the commission took to review the charges.