After a months-long investigation into personnel issues within the Salem Lakes Fire Department, Chief James Lejcar has resigned. About 30 minutes before tonight’s board meeting when the investigation was to be discussed, Lejcar tendered his resignation to Fire Commission Chairman Allen Thennes.
The resignation comes on the heels of an investigation that was completed by a law firm that the Village Board hired to investigate personnel issues within the fire department. Attorney Jake Curtis from Attolles Law was retained at significant cost to investigate village’s fire department – specifically the fire inspector, Steven Ptaszynski, who resigned last night, and the Fire Chief.
Thennes announced the resignation before the board meeting Monday evening. Thennes spoke briefly with KCE after the meeting. He wants residents to know that he’s taken action to make sure there is no disruption in services in the village. “I’ve spoken with the neighboring fire departments, Bristol and Randall – they are aware of the recent resignations. We have Lieutenants on the department that have command experience,” said Thennes. Village President Rita Bucur echoed Thennes’ statements Monday evening. “There will be no disruptions in fire department operations in the Village.”
Reached by phone Monday evening, local Attorney Michael McTernan, who represents several of the businesses that say were attacked by Lejcar and Ptaszynski, had the following to say of this evening’s news:
“My clients remain committed to working with the Village to make the community that they live and work in better every day.”
Others in the audience this evening weren’t so diplomatic. There were audible cheers and excitement heard in the room immediately after the news of the Chief’s resignation was announced. “Now the Village can begin to heal,” said Steve Dunn, owner of two large businesses in the village.
Future of the Investigation’s Final Report
The village taxpayers had to pony up some money to pay for the expensive investigation and the business owners and residents demanded tonight that the Village Board release the report. KCE is aware of legal strategies that Village Attorney Remzy Bitar and Attolles Law could implement to bury this document. The village could tell Attolles Law not to author a final report. In Wisconsin, draft reports, work product and notes are not releasable under the Public Records Statute. Plainly put, if the lawyers at Attolles Law are told not to finalize a written summary of their findings, the costly investigation will be for naught. No one will know what, if anything was corrupt within the walls of the fire department administration. The proponents of having the report drafted and released gave many reasons why this would be done.
- The Village could learn from the findings of the investigation to craft new policies to prevent future bad behavior.
- The citizens deserve to know exactly how the fire department was ran before the Chief resigned.
- Transparency – Why bury a document that was so expensive to generate?
- Damage – Many people claim they were damaged by the fire department and might have legal claims. Burrying the document would eliminate evidence of any possible misconduct.
- Future employment of Lejcar. Lejcar could get a job running another local department if the truth about his leadership is hidden.
Fire Commission chairman Thennes told KCE that the commission is meeting on Wednesday to confer with their legal counsel to start the process of selecting an interim chief. After that the process to hire a new fire chief will begin.
Village President Rita Bucur’s full statement:
“Tonight, the Village Board was made aware of the resignation of both the Fire Chief and the Fire Marshall. We accept their resignations. The Fire Commission will immediately coordinate to make sure there is no break in fire and EMS services.
The Fire Commission will also meet on Wednesday to designate an Interim Fire Chief and discuss Fire Inspection services. They will also begin the discussion about the process for searching for a new Fire Chief.
The Village Board takes public safety seriously. I am confident the Village residents and those we serve will be in good hands.”