Council questions status of police chief hiring process
by Beth Kraft
In light of the upcoming retirement of Mondovi Police Chief Terry Pittman, a committee consisting of City Council members Robert Holden and Galen Hagen along with Pittman himself were charged with the task of recommending a successor. Committee meetings held Sept. 15 and Sept. 30 yielded recommendations to hire from within, resulting in the nod for interim police chief being given to current MPD officer Bonnie Bertrang following interviews by interested applicants.
However, the process cannot move forward until Mondovi Mayor Treig Pronschinske officially appoints Bertrang to the position, an item that was absent from the Mondovi City Council’s agenda at its most recent meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 14.
Council members questioned why Pronschinske left the police chief appointment off the Council’s to-do list that evening, accusing him of “dragging his feet” on the matter.
“I have not made a decision on the appointment, and when I do I will put it on the agenda,” Pronschinske responded.
“It’s a very important decision and it’s not something that should be decided on in a matter of days or months,” he added.
Pittman will continue as Mondovi’s acting police chief through the end of the calendar year, allowing plenty of time for a decision, Pronschinske reasoned.
Robert Holden said he felt Pronschinske was disregarding the committee’s opinion and felt he was questioning their judgment.
Fellow councilman Gerald Rud also jumped into the fray to voice his opinion on Pronschinske’s proper place in the process.
“You’re not a member of that committee,” said Rud, “you don’t have a say in what went on at that meeting.”
“I was there to listen,” said Pronschinske of his attendance at both committee meetings.
Members of the Council then brought Pronschinske’s past history with appointments into the conversation, questioning his decision to change city attorneys earlier this year.
Holden, Rud and Ed Adams all took turns wondering aloud if Pronschinske was in some way related to the current city attorney, Samuel P. Schlewitz, or how he might be otherwise acquainted with him.
For the record, Pronschinske stated that neither he or his spouse, Becky Pronschinske, are related to Schlewitz, an attorney with Poquette, Donnellan & Schlewitz Law based in Eau Claire.
According to the proposed agenda released for the Oct. 28 City Council meeting, appointing an interim police chief will be discussed.
Per the police chief hiring committee’s minutes, if Bertrang is appointed by Pronschinske and receives Council approval she will become Mondovi’s full-time police chief in January, following the successfully completion of a three-month probationary period.
Also that night, the Council heard testimony from Fred Bolland regarding the Class “B” liquor license for the Local Inn, formerly known as the Mondovi Inn and the Ugly Stick.
Bolland said he evicted the former owners in July after they defaulted on their contract with him. He presented a letter from one of the contractees, Jennifer Williams, as proof that she had surrendered her liquor license to the city. However, Williams, who no longer resides in the area, claims she never agreed to surrender the license and said the signature is not hers.
The letter Williams allegedly signed is not dated or notarized.
Referencing a phone conversation she had with Williams, deputy clerk Dawn Moy said Williams refused to surrender the license and again denied she ever signed a letter for Bolland, who repeatedly argued that the signature is indeed authentic.
“It’s a ‘he said, she said’ thing,” shrugged Moy.
City administrator Dan Lauersdorf said the city’s hands are tied unless Williams officially surrenders the license or Bolland can obtain a court order to authenticate the signature by comparing it to Williams’ signature on documents that were notarized.
With no more liquor licenses available for issue in the city, Bolland’s plans to reopen the bar and restaurant on Mondovi’s east side as the Local Inn are on hiatus for the time being.
Health insurance changes for city employees for 2015 were also approved by the Council that night.
According to a quote from Employers Benefit Group, city employee health insurance premiums stood to take about a 27 percent rate hike over last year without changing the plan structure.
Lauersdorf recommended adjusting the city’s benefit plan through Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield from a $2,500/$5,000 single/family plan deductible to deductibles of $3,500/$7,000. The change will actually save employees an average of 7.3 percent over last year, although the out-of-pocket maximum nearly doubled and changes to prescription drug copays will also be noted as part of the new plan.
Sticking with the previous plan would have cost city employees anywhere from about $140 to $440 more per month starting in November.
Lauersdorf said the new plan moves city employees from a non-Affordable Health Care Act approved plan to one that is ADA compliant, which effectively cuts the level of care for city employees.
“Affordable health care is not affordable,” said Lauersdorf.
He noted an explanation given by an Employers Benefit Group rep indicated that small businesses and the middle class are shouldering the burden of adding millions of previously-uninsured Americans to the health care insurance pool.
In other business that night, the Council approved the following:
• operator licenses for Crystal A. Bissett (SA); Clarissa F. Lamarr (Mondovi Market); Justine A. Seipel (Joe’s Shop Kwik)
• Oct. 1, 2014, personnel report stipulating two percent wage increases awarded to the police union and to non-union employees for 2015