Orfordville police chief says he's not planning to retire
ORFORDVILLE Orfordville Police Chief Dave Wickstrum said the agenda for last Monday's village board meeting caught him by surprise.
It included a closed session "to start the process of finding a new Chief of Police due to the retirement of Chief Wickstrum."
Wickstrum said he has no intention of retiring.
Before the meeting started, Wickstrum gave each board member a letter stating his intent to continue working beyond the end of the year.
"Last fall, the police committee recommended that my contract be extended through 2013, and ultimately the full village board voted to approve that recommendation," he wrote in his letter. "Although there was some discussion concerning my retirement at that time, I have not pursued ending my career as I feel I am in good health and believe that I still function in the capacity as a police officer to a better-than-average standard."
He said it must be a misunderstanding, but no board members have contacted him since getting his letter.
"It shouldn't have been an issue," he said. "I would have thought someone would have come to me and asked if I planned to retire."
Instead of canceling the closed session Monday, the board went ahead with a 50-minute closed session, a move a Madison attorney with expertise in open meetings law said is a violation of state statutes.
When reached at work Wednesday, village board President David Olsen said, "There's nothing to talk about" because the issue was in closed session. He said he had to hang up because he was at work.
When asked for a phone number to reach him outside of work, he said "absolutely not" because he does not give his number to the media.
Board member Russell Rucker confirmed receiving Wickstrum's letter but said he doesn't understand because Wickstrum said at a meeting last month that he planned to retire.
Wickstrum said if he planned to retire, he would put it in writing and that would have been included in meeting minutes. The December meeting minutes include nothing about Wickstrum retiring.
The chief recalled a discussion at a meeting last week about buying new computer software, and a board member said they should let the next chief pick it out, he said. He told those at the meeting that a new chief would have enough to deal with after being hired, but he didn't say anything about his own retirement, he said.
He apologized Wednesday for any misunderstanding, but he said any of the board members could have clarified the issue with him before setting Monday's agenda or after receiving his letter, but he has heard nothing.
The reason indicated on the village board's agenda for going into closed session—to start the process of filling a position—doesn't qualify as an exception to the open meetings law because the discussion wasn't about a specific employee or candidate, said Robert Dreps, an attorney with Godfrey & Kahn in Madison.
He provided two state attorney general opinions on the issue.
When board members received the letter from the chief before the meeting indicating he doesn't plan to retire, "it raises the question of what they did behind the closed session for an hour," he said.
"When the reason for the closed session goes away before it starts, they can't justify doing it," Dreps said.
The village's attorney, William Henderson, said he couldn't comment about the issue because he did not know about the meeting.