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Police Review Board drops open records complaint

The Hammond Village Board voted Monday night to reimburse Police Chief Rick Coltrain for his attorney fees in connection with a Sept. 5 open records request complaint filed by a citizen.

Coltrain said the bill he received from his attorney, Andrew Nelson of Hudson, for the month of September totals $1,430. He estimated that is about half of what the final bill will be. The board voted to cover that cost, and to look at covering the rest of the bill when it arrives. The money is coming from the Village Board wages fund.

Former trustee Sandy Brecht spoke from the audience, saying the village should cover public works employee Bob Trudell’s attorney fees for a medical matter a few years ago. Tony Endres, the Hammond citizen who filed the complaint with the Police Review Board concerning his non-receipt of requested police department records, also said his attorney fees should be reimbursed.

Village attorney Tim Scott said he advised Coltrain to get his own attorney, as he was unable to represent Coltrain due to conflict of interest, professional ethics and the need for Coltrain to be represented by someone outside of the matter.

“I do not recommend you reimburse a private citizen who has brought a complaint against an officer acting in their official capacity,” Scott told board members. “However, it is not fair to people serving on the board to not have legal representation.”

As for Trudell, he said if Trudell wants reimbursement in his matter, he will have to bring it forward to the board.

Trustee Lynn Pabst said he believes Scott should have been able to help Coltrain.

“We need to maybe clarify what you do for us,” Pabst said. “It was kind of like putting him (Coltrain) out to pasture.”

Scott reiterated that he couldn’t represent Coltrain if the matter had moved on to a formal hearing, because he wouldn’t be considered impartial as he represents the village itself. He said he considers “Hammond Inc.” his client, comparing the village to a business.

Among Endres’ concerns highlighted in the complaint, listed in a series of emails to village clerk/administrator Sandi Hazer and Coltrain over the last few months, are the department’s purchase of ammunition, taxpayers’ ability to inspect the ammunition and where it’s stored, where the ammunition is bought and whether it could be purchased elsewhere for less money; a yearly inventory list required by the village’s insurer, Wisconsin state certification letters and continuing education documents required by state law for law enforcement officers, and use and storage of the police department’s Dodge Durango. He had also expressed concern for possible verbal attacks on his character.

According to Hazer, the Police Review Board met Thursday, Oct. 9, with its attorney, Catherine Munkittrick of Rodli, Beskar, Krueger & Pletcher, S.C. Based on the attorney’s recommendation, the Police Review Board determined there was not sufficient evidence to move forward with an evidentiary hearing concerning Endres’ complaint and police misconduct. Hazer said Endres can pursue the matter in Circuit Court if he chooses.

“I’m curious as to the function of the Village Board,” Endres said. “For the better of the village employees or the citizens.”

Pabst expressed disappointment that Endres chose to file a complaint before coming to the Village Board with his concerns.

“This has cost the village a lot of money and I’m sorry you felt you couldn’t come to us,” Pabst said.

“If I had just received the documents I asked for this whole thing could have been avoided,” Endres said.

Other business

  •  The board voted to use the Department of Revenue Tax Refund Interception Program (TRIP) to collect fire call fees for non-residents. The program takes the fee out of a person’s tax refund and reimburses municipalities for services it has been unable to collect on.
  •  The board directed Scott to draft changes to the village’s conceal and carry sign ordinance to bring it in line with state law.
  •  The village board will have a budget planning meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 20.

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in Febraury 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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