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Who Is In Charge In Pleasant Prairie During Major Criminal Investigation? Village Officials Don’t Want Us To Know

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Village Administrator Nathan Thiel, President John Steinbrink, Sr and Assistant Administrator Tom Schircel

Village President John Steinbrink, Sr controls the Village Board Agenda and decides what he and the other board members vote on. Just a few days before the March 28, 2022 agenda, Steinbrink added a very important item:

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Enter into Executive Session.
Consider entering into Executive Session pursuant to §19.85 (c) considering employment,
promotion, compensation or performance evaluation data of any public employee over which the
governmental body has jurisdiction or exercises responsibility and specifically as it relates to the
position of Village Administrator.

According to state statute, The Village President is not the chief executive. The Village administrator is. The administrator is “the boss.” The only explicit power of the Village President is to control the agenda and he is one of many votes on the board.

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The board then met in private and ostensibly talked about their decision not to renew the contract of Village Administrator Nathan Thiel. If the board takes no action, Thiel is essentially out of a job.

Quoting the great 1970’s band Rush, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” That is exactly what happened. The Village board made a choice – to get rid of Thiel. Thiel will no longer be in charge of the Village after April 30, 2022 – in about two weeks. His desk and office are already cleared out and his last two weeks he will be out of the office using the last of his vacation time. So the lingering question is this: Who is in charge of the Village? KCE wanted to know. We called the public works department, village administrator’s office, communications manager, village clerk, HR and every board member. Village President John Steinbrink, Sr’s house phone, which we spoke to him on Tuesday is off the hook today, going straight to voicemail. Each and every department either ignored KCE’s call and let it go to voicemail, or transferred us to Steve Linn, the Village’s Communications manager. The Wisconsin Department of Justice media department also declined to give us a comment. Kenosha DA Graveley declined to tell us why his office is recusing itself from this prosecution.

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Steve Linn Village Communications Manager

We called Linn’s office line, left a voice message, called his cell phone and emailed him. Nothing, nada. His job includes communicating with the media. Our first attempt at contacting him, absent him being in the hospital expecting a baby, hiking in the alps, or sick, he get’s an F-.

PPPD Chief David Smetana and Trustee Kris Keckler

Out of the dozen or so people we tried to reach, we have to give credit to Police Chief Dave Smetana and Village Trustee Kris Keckler who did at least talk to us. The Police Chief told us he couldn’t share any information yet, but will get back in touch with us. Keckler gave KCE a seemingly disingenuous reply saying that Thiel was “on vacation” and the board “has not taken any official action regarding the Village Administrator.” While this might be the truth, it’s certainly not the whole truth. The Village Taxpayers deserve the whole truth.

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Investigation Update

Public Works Director John Steinbrink, Jr

KCE has been given much information about the alleged criminal investigation into the Village President’s son, John, Jr. This information came from sources close to Village Hall. It is alleged that Steinbrink used Village dollars to refurbish an expensive Village-owned wood chipper. It was set to go to auction to be sold with a starting bid of almost $20,000. The day before the auction, Steinbrink is seen on video removing the chipper and he then allegedly delivered it to a friend. He paid the village about $2,500 for the wood-chipper, a price well below market value. It is alleged he was then using this wood-chipper for his privately owned tree-trimming business. KCE has made a public records request for all documents related to this investigation and the videos. The Village of Pleasant Prairie, with exception of its police department is known for being very non-transparent and slow to release records. It will take some time to get this information. It is likely if these allegations are true, investigators will be looking further back into Steinbrink’s tenure, and he could face felony misconduct in public office charges or any of a dozen other charges.

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KCE’s source tells us that the wood chipper issue is only the tip of the iceberg, that years of alleged misconduct is being investigated.

Opinion

No one knows who is in charge of the Village of Pleasant Prairie at this moment. That is dangerous. Every government body needs a chief executive. Whoever is in charge has a lot of explaining to do and shame on you!

We also want to know if not renewing the contract of the village administrator is directly related to the criminal investigation.

The public can understand that details of an active investigation can’t be provided, but general information is due to the Pleasant Prairie tax-payers. They deserve to know!

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14 Responses

  1. KEVIN- you quote rush- i’ll quote talking heads- fight fire with fire- burning down the house!- we’re in for nasty weather, hold tight, and you aint seen nothing yet! love me some david byrne!
    keep up the good work, kevin!

  2. It’s a lot of one hand washes the other in Public Works. Jr keeps the troops happy and quiet by doling out double time to PW employees to make sparks with their snowplows. Then they convince the villagers that taxes need to be raised to assure sufficient numbers of police and fire.

    1. John Jr. threatens and harasses employees and anyone who has worked for him knows he will fire you unless you keep your head down and mouth shut. That is why there have been so many public works postings the last few years. HR has had numerous employees complain about John Jr. and nothing has been done. Village residents need to get at the next board meeting to oust John Sr. If people think he doesn’t know what his crooked son has been doing OR that he isn’t benefitting, they are crazy. I agree with you Kevin, the more they dig into Dirty John the more they will find. It is unfortunate that Nathan is gone-Kevin maybe research when the allegations on John Jr. started and compare that to the motion date of John Sr. It is my personal opinion that Nathan was probably leading the investigation into Jr. so John Sr. Put the motion to get rid of Nathan out there as revenge which unfortunately worked. The best thing for the Village would be for both Steinbrink’s to resign-clearly there is a major conflict of interest. The village president finds it more important to cover his son’s tracks than to protect taxpayers from the corruption? If you say he bought the chipper for $2500 and it was worth over $20000 how can that NOT be a conflict for his father? That means the tax paying residents lost $17,500 just on that one item that could have been used towards other village costs. Residents are okay with that? It will be interesting to see who steps into Nathan’s role and if the village will be smart and pick an unbiased person or if they choose another loyal Steinbrink follower. If it’s the later that means the village board also cares more about the Steinbrink’s than taxpayers.

      1. You hit the nail on the head. Let’s not forget that “Village of Pleasant Prairie average salary is 54 percent lower than USA average and median salary is 91 percent lower than USA median” (govsalaries.com) meaning it’s top heavy oligarchy that takes advantage of the little guys because they can. That 20k and who knows how much else, could have been put into the budget to help families eat. Gross.

    2. People clearly have no idea. If you think the insane hours he makes his employees work is “doling out” favors you are crazy. Plus it isn’t even double time-so that is incorrect as well. He treats his employees like garbage and if he is questioned or if his directions are questioned you will be treated like shit for a long time and in fear of your job. So his employees aren’t happy and he keeps them quiet by hanging their jobs over their heads-in constant fear of being fired because you guessed it, he has HR in his pocket as well. Sounds like a great leader, right? And a great place to work? Public works employees all know each other and we have seen the flood of people trying to leave the village because of John and the village lack of HR. The employees have ideas on how to handle snow but their expertise falls on deaf ears. And just for your information, village employees are very much underpaid. As you can imagine John is not generous and there could be employees working for ten or twenty years without hitting top scale which is around $33 an hour and starting wage is almost $22. So please tell me how the public works employees make out under John?

      1. Can’t wait til the women he has harassed feel safe enough to make his conduct against them known. I’d never let my daughter work here. Goes beyond sexual harassment – and caught on company time in company vehicles. Hoping karma finally catches up with this family.

  3. Looks like there is no shortage of corruption east of the Interstate and the investigations at the Pleasant Prairie Village Hall need to be seriously expanded. The Good Ole Boy Club needs to be broke up and the potential of conflicts of interests via family members need to be addressed. I sadly don’t think DA Mike Graveley will offer any justice from his pathetic office.
    The Guy in Charge at in Pleasant Prairie is the one who swings the Hammer, the one who everyone fears, the one who will make an example out of you if you don’t submit or dare to challenge his dictatorial authority. Titles mean NOTHING.
    I suspect Nathan Thiel has now been educated on this evil reality the hard way.
    It looks like the next one in line for termination is Communication Manager Steve Linn; who evidently is afraid to do his job possibly because he fears the Hammer and judging by the stillness reported at the Village Hall, there must be an epidemic of Hammer Fear Flu.

    1. Reading the above comments would make me think that any smart employee of the village would be very careful about any comment made to the media right now. It’s deplorable to bash someone who didn’t answer your first call and malign them publically without having heard from them. The Village employees have been underpaid and mistreated for years and no one has done anything but now the employees should jump on your boat and screw the fact that they do indeed have a child on the way and a family to feed? Some people are just trying to survive this administration the best way they know how and they would probably LOVE for the Stinebrinks to be removed from authority and then they could feel free to speak their mind especially since nothing has been done about the Stinebrinks after years of complaints. It is the employees only logical choice after years of not having anyone stand up for them, including you.
      A journalist should hold themselves to reporting the facts and not maligning people that have already been browbeat and abused by their employer. How about some journalistic integrity?

  4. The amount of turnover at Public Works is embarrassing, HR and the Village Board is well aware of John Jr’s employee harassment and abuse. If you try to oppose John in any way you were swiftly kicked to the curb or put on his sh*t list. The list of public funds that John Jr. has embezzled is likely a mile long. The sooner the Steinbrinks are out of the Village, the better.

  5. As an individual who is been directly affected by this corruption, all I can say that both Jr. and Sr. need to be ousted—they’re corruptly running a village and wasting village tax payer dollars. Nathan’s position being up for grabs is most likely a direct effect of the criminal investigation and a sort of revenge; it is extremely unfair to Nathan who hasn’t had affiliation with this father-son duo acting as Bonny and Clyde. Throughout the years John Jr. has been director, everyone in their exit interviews have complained and put in words to investigate—nothing ever manifested from this until evidence was brought to the table. The investigation covers much more than the chipper—there has been years of corruption and treating employees poorly, referring to them all as replaceable. Look at the village vehicles and equipment the PW employees are supposed to use. The minimum wage for all PW employees needs to be raised—no wonder the PW department has a turnover rate of less than a year. In other words, this is a clear indicator that the “royal family” Steinbrinks need to leave—BOTH of them.

  6. PSA: the recplex sinks are not the place to shave your junk, white undies are not an acceptable swimsuit and for gods sake close the curtain when showering

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