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Irving Young's Mama Mia

Complaints led to inspector's replacement

Four trustees say reasons for removal unclear


TERSE COMMUNICATION BETWEEN MARRA, HENSON - A point of irritation between former Building Inspector David Henson and Village President John Marra may have been the numeral 4. That's the middle number of Marra's address, 548 Wiswell Drive. Marra said this incident was not the reason he replaced Henson. An open documents request from the Lake Geneva Regional News turned up just one written communication between Henson and Marra. Apparently, the numeral 4 in the Marras' house number was damaged, removed or obscured. On April 3, 2009, Henson sent this letter to Marra: Dear Mr. Marra Per ordinance 7.06 of the Village of Williams Bay, every house and building located within the village must have a house number. The number shall be conspicuously placed immediately above, on or at the side of the property door of each building so that the number can plainly be seen 75 feet from the street. Whenever any building is situated more than 75 feet from the street line, the number of each building shall be conspicuously displayed on an appropriate post within 75 feet from the street line so as to be easily discernible. The cost of such number or numbers shall be paid for by the property owner. If you have any questions please call 262-245-2704." (b) If the owner or occupant of any building required to be numbered by this section shall neglect for more than 30 days to attach and maintain the proper number of such building the building inspector shall cause to be served upon him the notice requiring such owner or occupant to properly number the same and, if he neglects to do so for 10 days after the serving of such notice he shall be deemed to have violated this section. Upon conviction thereof, he shall be subject to penalties provided in section 7.10 of this chapter. Thank you for your cooperation. Marra responded with an e-mail dated April 9, 2009: Dear David, This e-mail is in response to your letter dated April 3rd , 2009 regarding our compliance with Village Ordinance 7.06, as I explained to your during our most recent conversation at the Village Hall, we have always been aware of this requirement per ordinance and have previously been in compliance, the address plaque that was previously on the front of our home was damaged over the winter months and the middle number was no longer visible, as such I removed it a few weeks ago until we could secure a new one. We have as of this date replaced the old one with a new highly visible and reflective address house number which now corrects your stated concerns and as such have brought our residence into compliance, I was however somewhat confused in as much as in checking with some of the other neighbors who also were not in compliance who stated that they had received no similar notice, I trust this was just an oversight on your part and not "selective enforcement" of a chosen few, in any case this situation has now been corrected and we apologize for the short period of time that we were not in compliance, but as stated above and in the course of conversation you now are aware of the reasons. I do think the fact that you chose to relate this violation by means of an official letter given the fact of our long standing residency and my ties to the Village was totally unnecessary and a waste of public funded postal expenses, and could have been accomplished with a simple and less abrasive verbal advisement to us during your travels through the village, but we will accept and respect your actions and decision in sending it without further comment. Thank you.
August 24, 2011 | 07:52 AM
WILLIAMS BAY — Complaints from residents led to the replacement of David Henson as village building inspector, according to Village President John Marra.

In a prepared written statement released on Monday, Marra put down his reasons for wanting to replace Henson, who had been with the village since December 2007.

Or, at least those reasons he said he could relate without violating the confidentiality of items discussed in closed sessions.

"For some time prior to my election as village president and in the days immediately following the election in April, I became aware of what I determined to be notable shortcomings on how Mr. Henson was performing his duties as the village building inspector and was advised of this by numerous village residents," Marra's statement reads in part.

He wrote that it was his responsibility to staff his administration with people "to provide professional and sensitive service to the residents of the village."

Read Marra, Hansen correspondence

"I want a management team I can work with," Marra said.

However, Marra was unwilling to discuss any specific complaints that may have led to Henson's nonrenewal.

Henson was let go by the village on Aug. 4 and replaced by Jerry Anderson, a contractor, licensed inspector and Elkhorn alderman.

Anderson's approval was on a tight 4-3 count, with the trustees splitting 3-3 and Marra essentially casting the deciding vote, although he did not vote last.

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Trustees voting against Anderson's appointment, or at least to delay a vote, were John Grove, George Vlach and Marsha Engquist.

Those voting with Marra were Don Parker, William Duncan and Gordon Roth.

A survey of trustees showed that at least four, Grove, Vlach, Engquist and Roth, were unclear about the specific reason or reasons why Henson was not being reappointed.

Duncan recalled that Marra had concerns about how Henson interacted with residents about issues.

Marra had said that he wanted "a building inspector who would enforce the rules, but interact better with residents," Duncan said.

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Vlach said he had heard there was "bad blood" between Marra and Henson, but he didn't know the specifics.

He said there had been complaints against Henson during the previous Village Board, but those complaints were reviewed by the trustees, who then supported Henson.

Grove also said he was uncertain why Henson was released.

He said he supported the former building inspector.

"I'm not trying to start a war with Mr. Marra, but what's right is right," Grove said.

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Engquist said she had not heard any specific complaints against Henson, either.

"What the issues were between John Marra and David Henson, I don't know," Engquist said.

"It's a hard job, like a police officer," Vlach said of the building inspector. "You're not going to be friends with everyone.

"My vote was against how a village employee, David, was handled," Vlach said.

"No reason was given to the board by Mr. Marra," said Roth, who voted nonetheless to replace Henson with Anderson.

Roth said he voted with the majority to bring the issue to an end.

"We could have kept voting against every new appointment, but I don't know how far that would have gone on," Roth said.

Parker could not be reached for comment.

Called shortly after the Aug. 4 meeting, Henson said he didn't want to comment on his replacement as building inspector.

"Thank you for the call," Henson told the Regional News in a phone interview.

Hansen said, however, that he did not want to be interviewed.

"It's not my nature to do this," he said.

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