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Prein's fate in judge's hands

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Oral arguments were heard on Monday in the appeal of former Roberts Police Chief Ricci Prein.

There to listen were three Village of Roberts Board members, the Village clerk and one Police Review Board member.

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Prein was dismissed from his position in early August after a hearing conducted by the Village's Police Review Board. The PRB found that Prein's conduct in several counts to be unbecoming of an officer.

Due to state statutes, Prein is allowed to appeal the decision of the Board. St. Croix County Circuit Judge Edward Vlack said he would try to have a written decision in the matter completed by the first week of January.

Appearing by phone to represent Prein on Monday was attorney Gordon McQuillen. He urged Judge Vlack to follow the statutes precisely when making his decision.

Catherine Munkittrick represented the interests of the Police Review Board. She also reminded Judge Vlack that the appeal was a review of evidence, not a review of the legal issues. He is to decide if there is just cause to terminate Prein through the evidence presented, she said.

In her arguments, she outlined the basics of the evidence against Prein, and why the PRB found it to be credible and serious.

Munkittrick said, "The Police Review Board felt strongly that the nature of misconducts were so serious that any one of those incidents would be enough to dismiss him."

Attorney Michael Brose, who argued for the Village of Roberts Board during the hearing, was also present in the courtroom. He told the judge to acknowledge the police officers' reluctance to testify against Prein and the Village Board's serious deliberation before investigating Prein when making his decision.

McQuillen objected to Brose's comments because he said Brose wasn't involoved with the appeal hearing.

McQuillen argued that it was unfair that none of the Village Board members approached Prein with their complaints until the formal investigation. The one incident Prein was aware of, which involved drinking after hours in a bar, was resolved and Prein corrected his behavior, McQuillen said.

He then questioned how Village Board members found a reason to search Prein's work computer, as no complaints had been filed about his Internet conduct.

Judge Vlack will review all the evidence presented during the July hearing, as well as briefs by both Munkittrick and McQuillen.

In July, the Village of Roberts Board filed a complaint against Prein, which was then heard by the five person Roberts Police Review Board.

The PRB found that charges of Prein harassing a subordinate officer while she was off-duty were valid. They also determined that Prein had inappropriate conduct during Good Neighbor Days 2007 when interacting with Village President Fisher.

Charges relating to discouraging law enforcement relating to L&M's Bar, as well as being in the bar after hours, were deemed all credible.

Finally, the PRB ruled that Prein violated department policies and procedures when he used the Internet to look at women in swimwear and various stages of undress.

The PRB voted unanimously to dismiss Prein, effective Aug. 1, 2008.

If Vlack's written decision is ready by January, six months will have passed since Prein was fired.

Since Prein's dismissal, Officer Sonia Kubesh has acted as the senior officer for the Village of Roberts Police Department.

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