Common Council Gets Heated Over Fire and Police Commission Nominees

Alderman Ed Wagner. Courtesy of the City of Marshfield.

MARSHFIELD, WI (OnFocus) – The Marshfield Common Council had a spirited council comment section during their Tuesday meeting at the Marshfield City Hall.

Much has been made about the council’s inability to agree upon a candidate to fill a currently vacant position on the Fire and Police Commission (FPC).

Alderman Ed Wagner opened the debate with a statement critiquing the nominees made by Council President Nick Poeschel and former mayors for the FPC.

According to Wagner, FPC’s have been required in cities and towns with a population of more than 4,000 since 1933. The idea behind the commission is to keep corruption out of the police and fire forces by separating it from local governmental entities.

Wagner described the tension between the Mayor and Council in this process as manufactured by the nature of the system.

“There is a built-in tension between the Mayor and the Common Council,” Wagner said. “The reason for that is the Mayor is given the exclusive authority to nominate, but the council must confirm.”

Wagner said both the nominating authority and the common council don’t know what their roles are in choosing a FPC member.

“In my opinion, it’s the duty of the Mayor or his representative, to nominate persons who will act independently of local politics,” Wagner said. “Who have no allegiance to either the Mayor or the Council. No allegiance to unions due to their contributions or endorsements. Have no prior association with either the fire or police departments. Although, we did allow a special exception to that in very recent memory. They need have no agenda relating to specific personnel or policies and no financial interest that they might profit from that nomination.

“In other words, the nominating officer must make nominations which preserve the statutory independence of the Fire and Police Commission. It is his or her duty to uphold the statutes as he or she has pledged to do. It is not that the Mayor can nominate his people to influence the commission. It’s to uphold the statutes.”

Wagner described the council’s role as to examine the nominees and determine whether they are independent of any constraints in their ability to do what is best for the Police and Fire Departments and the City involved. He gave his thoughts on past nominees and how they have fallen short of his expectations of a FPC member.

“In my opinion, the nominees so far have not met those expectations,” Wagner said. “We have been presented with a number of persons who have been either closely or tangentially involved with the former Mayor’s desire to shake up the commission as he put it. Or to aid the union in the continuance of their failed, costly attempts to end the fit-for-duty test and the divisive and destructive things that took place in relation to that.”

Wagner urged Poeschel to heed what he had said about the process of choosing a nominee for the FPC. He also asked the council to analyze their duties as the entity that confirms these candidates.

Poeschel defended his choices saying he has chosen his nominees without using any personal agendas.

“I assure you that the people that have been put forth by me have come from a pool of persons who have expressed their desire to serve the City of Marshfield,” Poeschel said. “I examined the pool of persons and in each occasion, I pick the person who I feel is most qualified and most desirous to serve the City of Marshfield on the Police and Fire Commission regardless of their backgrounds or any perceived beliefs that they may have. I take somewhat of offense to what Mr. Wagner has said here to imply that there is anything else going on here. That I am selecting people based on some sort of political motivation. I assure you that is not the case.”

Alderman Peter Hendler said he will be voting to keep the integrity of the FPC intact.

“What I think is at stake here is a strong Fire and Police commission,” Hendler said. “In my case, I will do my best to see that happen. If I have to stand my ground as I have the past four times, I will do so. I’m not going to have that honesty questioned and I won’t resort to any retaliation but I will continue doing my job whether somebody likes it or not.

“We need a strong commission to put that commission back in business, doing what they are supposed to be doing,” Hendler said. “We cannot do it with the candidates, that in my opinion, do not allow that to happen.”

The next Common Council meeting will be on Feb. 8th where the Council will vote on nominee Steve Steingraber for the FPC.

We welcome your stories! Contact us at [email protected]!

News Desk
Author: News Desk