By Mike Heine/The Week
(Published Feb. 14, 2007, 4:38 p.m.)
A list of complaints made by town of Geneva police officers regarding the town chairman, which were forwarded to the town attorney and state Attorney General's Office, is meant to influence upcoming spring elections, town board officials say.
Every member of the Geneva Town Board, including the town's clerk/treasurer, signed a letter to area newspaper editors in response to the complaints, which allege Chairman Joseph Kopecky often exceeded his scope of office powers. The letter is posted in its entirety on theweekextra.com
A group of about eight Geneva Police Department employees hired attorney Frank Lettenberger to investigate the issues they have regarding Kopecky's alleged actions. The allegations include a list of unfair department policies, questionable hiring practices and more. Lettenberger first forwarded the outline of complaints to town attorney Richard Torhorst. The list has since been forwarded to the state Attorney General's Office for further investigation.
Area newspapers have reported about the employees' complaints.
"The timing of this Lettenberger complaint appears to be orchestrated to affect the upcoming election process," the letter reads. "The town board asks that you recognize this complaint as nonsense and keep in mind the big picture."
Kopecky said most of the complaints the officers have stem from situations occurring this summer and early fall.
"Wouldn't you know this just comes out before the primary election," Kopecky said. "It's timed to have an effect on the primary election.
"This is a flagrant attempt to affect the election process."
To the contrary, Lettenberger said.
"They did come forward earlier," he said of the employees. "They tried everything they could going through the process and couldn't get any results. It was the last resort."
Lettenberger said he has yet to receive a formal response from the town board or the town attorney.
The letter says the board is united in its actions and that Kopecky does nothing on his own without board approval.
"Any allegations that Chairman Kopecky is acting alone are false and ignorant to the facts," the letter reads. The board acts collectively on all issues, the letter reads.
Police department employees allege in Lettenberger's outline that Kopecky overstepped his bounds by refusing to authorize overtime pay, deducting meeting pay from officers' paychecks, having questionable hiring practices that included allowing his son to work for the highway department, monitoring police band radio traffic and more.
The outline also questions how certain policies-some of which might violate state laws and constitutional rights-got into the police policy manual without any apparent town board approval.
The letter says the board and Police Chief Ed Gritzner approved all the policies and enacted them.
Lettenberger criticized the board's letter because, he said, it failed to specifically address anything within the outline of complaints and attacks the people bringing it forward.
"In the words of a famous Washington Post editor (Ben Bradlee), 'It's a non-denial denial,'" Lettenberger said. "We laid out point-by-point our problems with what they're doing. Where in this letter that they've promulgated do they address any of the points we've made?"