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Town of Mukwonago police chief under scrutiny

Complaint: Financial incentive program for issuing citations

Feb. 12, 2013

Town of Mukwonago - In a matter Town Attorney John Macy called "very serious," town police officer Chris Heckman returns to the Police Commission at 7 p.m. Feb. 13 with complaints against Police Chief Tom Czarnecki and Sgt. Eric Schmidt.

When Heckman addressed the commission in December with allegations that Czarnecki provided monetary rewards to officers for issuing citations or making arrests, the document Heckman presented did not specify what law had been violated. Specific steps are required before a formal hearing can be held, Macy told the commission. Heckman was given 30 days to specify the law violation within the document before it could be determined whether the matter will go to a formal hearing.

In a narrative of the report obtained by the Mukwonago Chief through an open-records request, Heckman stated he believed the acts "violate law or show at least a mismanagement or abuse of authority and may, in some circumstances, cause a waste of public funds or a danger to public safety."

According to Heckman's complaint, Czarnecki and Schmidt "have pushed officers to issue more citations," stating things such as, "if you can issue a citation, you should issue a citation" and "we need to issue more citations to increase revenue brought in by the Police Department."

Heckman also alleges that Czarnecki proposed an incentive program in which "he offered to personally pay the officer who issued the most citations every month the sum of $10 and the officer who issued the most of a certain type of citation … each month another $10."

According to the complaint, Heckman said he approached Czarnecki about the legality of the program.

"Chief Czarnecki stated he did not believe it was illegal, but stated it may be questionable ethically," the report said. "After obtaining some assistance, Chief Czarnecki was informed this practice was illegal, and it was subsequently dropped, although he stated it was only due to complaints about the program."

When contacted about the incentives, Czarnecki said, "No officers received any compensation for any incentive program."

Time off work

Heckman also claims Czarnecki placed him off duty as a disciplinary action and forced him to use sick pay and holiday pay while not working.

Dan Vliet, Czarnecki's attorney, told Police Commission members in December that Czarnecki did not discipline Heckman as stated. Instead, Heckman was not working because of an issue with his hearing, since Heckman wears hearing aids, which necessitated a hearing test, he said.

Vliet said there was "no unpaid suspension," and maintained that Heckman was placed on sick leave and then paid administrative leave for the safety of the department while it tried to get the necessary hearing tests done.

The report indicates Czarnecki sent an email to officers on July 7, 2012, regarding mandatory hearing tests to establish "baseline" hearing levels as a means of establishing liability coverage for the town in case officers sustain hearing damage while working.

Heckman started with the department in 2002 with a hearing loss and hearing aids, "which was known to everyone," he wrote in the report. He said he has performed all his duties without complaint. After he was hired, a new job description with hearing standards "derived from researching other departments" to determine a normal standard, was implemented without Heckman's knowledge and was never presented to the union, the report alleges.

According to the complaint, Czarnecki informed Heckman that he would not be allowed to work if he did not meet the new standard, and Heckman would have to use earned benefit time if he wanted to be paid. Heckman failed the first test done without his hearing aids. He was tested by an audiologist on Aug. 27, 2012, with hearing aids and "by manually adjusting the hearing aid volume, I was able to reach the new standard created by the new job description in both ears."

However, Heckman claims the town would not accept his offer to supply the results of this hearing test, saying it would schedule its own testing. After retesting he met the standard in his left ear, but was below the standard in his right ear.

In September 2012 Czarnecki informed Heckman that he would not be allowed to work because he had not met the hearing standard. Heckman said he was forced to "use accrued benefit time to continue receiving pay." Additional hearing tests followed, with results sent to the Town of Mukwonago. On Nov. 16, 2012, the union attorney requested Heckman be placed on administrative leave with pay, which Czarnecki agreed to if Heckman would agree to "other terms, including further testing."

"We have a responsibility to ensure the safety of officers and the public," Czarnecki explained. "Any testing done was to ensure that safety."

The narrative also indicated there were complaints regarding overtime assignments, yearly shift selection and selective treatment, among other incidents, which Heckman said he believes show "what appears to be a pattern of selective treatment."

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Weekend Happenings

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Rotary Pancake Day: 7:30 a.m. Feb. 28, Waukesha County Expo Center, 1000 Northview Road, Waukesha. Fundraiser for the Waukesha Rotary Club is 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m. in the Expo Center Arena. Advance tickets at Waukesha State Bank, downtown location., $5-$7. $5 advance, $7 at the door; free for children 5 and younger. www.waukesharotary.org.

Ninth Annual Oconomowoc Rotary Wine & Brew Fest: 5 p.m. Feb. 28, Olympia Resort, 1350 Royale Mile Rd, Oconomowoc. Wine, food and beer. Features foods from the best of our local restaurants. Purchase tickets at $50 from an O-Town Rotarian, through Facebook, or in person at most area First Bank Financial Centre locations, Books & Company & Lorleberg True Value Hardware. See more at www.oconomowocrotary.org. $50.

Chili Tasting: 11 a.m. Feb. 28, The Garden Mart, W297 S9115 Highway 83, Mukwonago. Chili tasting from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Local vendors will be selling unique merchandise. Judging is open to the public and all proceeds from voting will be donated to the Mukwonago Food Pantry. Event is free. Call (262) 363-5252 for information.

Dr. Seuss Birthday Bash Literacy Event: 10 a.m. Feb. 28, Hartland North Elementary, 232 Church Street, Hartland. Families with children in 4-year old kindergarten through second grade are invited to a special event. The Cat in the Hat and the Lorax will celebrate with a big birthday cake for all of our guests along with lots of literacy activities based around Dr. Seuss books.

Updates to this calendar are made weekly Monday afternoon. 

 

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