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'You have to at least look at the allegations'

Town Board still hasn't decided on investigating complaint against police chief

WHAT ARE THE ALLEGATIONS? There are several. According to the complaint signed by 14 Linn Township residents, the allegations range from Linn Police Chief Dennis Wisniewski driving a police vehicle with his arm in a sling and supposedly under the influence of pain medication to acts of cowardice, untruthfulness, neglect of duty and sleeping while on duty. See the June 10 edition of the Regional News or visit www.lakegenevanews.net for more information.
July 14, 2010 | 08:57 AM
Linn — A month ago, the town received a complaint signed by 14 people listing an array of allegations against Police Chief Dennis Wisniewski.

Although the Linn Town Board conducted its first closed session meeting about the complaint Thursday, July 8, its members still haven't decided whether the complaint merits investigation.

"You have to at least look at the allegations. … That's why we're gathering more information," Town Attorney David Schiltz said shortly after the July 8 special meeting in the Town Hall basement.

He predicted it could be one or two more weeks before the board would hold another closed session meeting to make a determination about the June 8 complaint.

The complaint was signed by Jim Keeler, Pearl Heinrich, Christy Heinrich, Eleana Srack, Kathy Wadsworth, Nev Wadsworth, Craig DeYoung, Virginia Foltman, Brandon Smith, Karen Smith, Paul Voltz, Billy R. Rauman, David Gallagher and Susan Meeker.

Meanwhile, Wisniewski remains on active duty, and in the words of Acting Town Chairman Jim Weiss, "nothing's changed."

"(Wisniewski) is our chief and we back him 100 percent, both myself and the Town Board, (but) we'll take this one day at a time," Weiss said after the meeting. "The best way to describe this is it's in process."

Perhaps one reason a decision hasn't been made yet is because there are several allegations.

According to the June complaint, Wisniewski has "violated as little as 10 and perhaps as many as 15 different sections" of Town Municipal Code Section 8.8, which concerns causes for suspension or dismissal.

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Wisniewski is accused of "using profane language, obscenities and vulgarities," being untruthful during a Walworth County Sheriff's Department investigation and that "his inclination to retaliate has been a threat to local citizens and has hindered and done irreparable harm" to the town.

The complaint also states Wisniewski's "capricious and retaliatory mindset has cost the taxpayers of Linn Township in excess of $100,000 for legal fees" and asks the Town Board to convene the "Police and Fire Commission as expeditiously as possible."

The complainants asked officials to place Wisniewski "on leave immediately" or update background checks on him.

They also requested a routine physical exam of him be "made current" and to conduct a psychological evaluation of Wisniewski.

"We have reason to believe that Mr. Wisniewski could be a danger to himself or to the township as well," stated a letter signed by the 14 complainants.

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Fallout from tractor-gate

Last month, Jim Keeler, one of the complainants, said he believes that town officials haven't "cleaned house like they need to."

That's why he said the complaint was made.

This stemmed from something Keeler called "tractor-gate," the highly publicized incident in which Wisniewski sold a Cub Cadet lawn mower for between $200 and $250 to a relative of Linn Det. Will Borgen.

In the events following that sale, one police officer lost his job and a longtime town official resigned.

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But prior to all that, then Linn Police Lt. Terry O'Brien filed a complaint with the Walworth County District Attorney's Office about the sale.

Although Wisniewski wasn't charged criminally, the Linn Town Board suspended him for three days without pay April 2009.

However, Wisniewski filed seven charges against O'Brien.

Last fall, the Town Police Committee found O'Brien guilty of four of those charges, suspended him for about three months without pay and demoted him to the rank of patrolman.

O'Brien filed an appeal in Walworth County Circuit Court.

The town and O'Brien reached a separation agreement in which the town is required to pay him $75,000.

Then, at the annual town meeting in April, Keeler attempted to make a motion directing the Town Board to fire Wisniewski.

He read from a list of several allegations, all of which are in the current complaint.

What Keeler said at that meeting prompted a May 26 cease-and-desist letter from Frank Lettenberger, Wisniewski's attorney.

Lettenberger asked Keeler not to make "any further false statements" about Wisniewski in public.

"If you take any such further action, please know that I will undertake any and all possible legal action against you, including but not limited to seeking monetary damages against you, including Mr. Wisniewski's actual attorney's fees," Lettenberger stated. "I will also file a petition for a harassment restraining order. Finally, I will request that an investigation be commenced into your actions pursuant to (State) Statutes."

That letter was drafted 10 days prior to the complaint against Wisniewski.

However, later in April, longtime Linn Town Chairman David Bollweg had resigned.

During his last interview with the Regional News as chairman, Bollweg said one reason for his resignation was "the tractor."

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