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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Geneva police make allegations, town board responds

The following letter is from members of the Geneva Town Board responding to a story in the Week Feb. 4 alleging improper actions by the town chair. Mike Heine's follow up story from the Sunday, Feb. 18 issue of the week is here. Comment at the end of the letter.

~Dan Plutchak/editor

A Letter to the Editor:

This letter is written by the entire Town of Geneva Board of Supervisors in response to news articles which appeared in the Lake Geneva Regional News, The Week and The Janesville Gazette.

Reportedly several "anonymous" members of the town police department, under the cover of a letter authored by Attorney Frank Lettenberger, have alleged that Geneva Town Chairman Kopecky is abusing his power and not working with the rest of the Town Board.

In reality, the Town Board acts collectively on all issues. To keep our residents informed on the issues, Chairman Kopecky typically functions as our spokesperson and fact-finder; any allegations that Chairman Kopecky is acting alone are false and ignorant of the facts. As the chairman is visible, he is an easy target. but he is working as part of our team.

During 2006, the Town Board met with Police Chief Edward Gritzner on several occasions and authorized the chairman to deal with the chief and the town attorney directly to resolve the Police Department Policies and report the results to the full Town Board for action. The final policies were then presented to the chief by action of the entire Town Board. The Town Board is continuing to work with Chief Gritzner to develop additional policies as required and we will recommend them to Chief Gritzner for approval and distribution as they are developed. Neither the board nor the chairman put anything "into (the officers') binder" as final approval and distribution of the Policies is by action of Chief Gritzner. Per the Police Contract between the Town of Geneva and the officers, there is an arbitration procedure which is being followed to resolve disagreements between the parties on certain policy features.

Ignoring that or perhaps hoping to influence the above referenced procedure which is underway, a letter was provided by Attorney Lettenberger detailing, among other things, several points of "general harassment" that the officers are alleging including "monitoring the radio traffic of the police officers, showing up at the town hall at all hours of the day and night (thus) interfering with police activity, stopping at the police department late at night and demanded an explanation from 'an officer' as to why he did not have all the lights on in the police department", etc.

There has been no harassment of the officers by any town official and the full town board will maintain its right and responsibility to access the town hall at any time of the day or night. As the highway department and police department both use the same single frequency radio, all broadcasts are heard and shared by both departments and can be monitored by any individual with a "police band" radio. If an officer is observed sitting at a computer with all of the other office lights turned off, he will continue to be asked for an explanation of what he/she is doing with the lights off. Based on the points which the attorney identifies as "general harassment", you really have to wonder if this attorney actually read the 'complaint' before he sent it.

An important fact is that the annual budget for the Town of Geneva Police Department is over $766,000.00 or roughly three quarters of a million dollars. For an expenditure of that size, the residents have a right to demand accountability from their Police Department. Accountability for all aspects of the town government is our sworn duty and the duty of all town employees, including the police, to the residents of the town. Development and adoption of the set of Policies for the Police Department is an important resource for assessing the department's accountability.

The timing of this Lettenberger complaint appears to be orchestrated to affect the upcoming election process. The Town Board asks that you recognize this complaint as nonsense and keep in mind the big picture. After the radios are turned off, the lights are turned on and the officers realize that their life isn't so bad, the residents of the Town of Geneva will still require a competent, experienced and involved Town Board.

The Police Department is only one piece of town government and it has been equipped, trained, treated and compensated quite fairly with your tax dollars. The town 'big picture' contains many more pieces which we have responsibly accounted for and maintained for you over these past years.

Recognize our past and current efforts on your behalf. Do not allow individuals with narrow agendas and self-interests to manipulate your vote. Examine closely their promises and question them when they seem to be merely copying our accomplishments or when their outlandish agendas are simply impractical or their claims untrue.

It is important that all Town residents vote at the Primary Election on Tuesday February 20th, 2007 and at the General Election on Tuesday April 03, 2007. Please do not treat the Primary Election as unimportant as all votes will count. Please vote for the future of the Town of Geneva.

Thank you for your past and continued support.

Clerk/Treasurer Debra Kirch

Supervisor Mary Van Lue

Supervisor Merle Loomer

Supervisor Bob McLernon

Supervisor Bob Cramer

Chairman Joe Kopecky

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