Resignations heating up Bonduel politics

Police chief leads exodus
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Leader Photo by Scott Williams Bonduel Village Hall, normally a place where village business is done peacefully, has become a hotbed of local political infighting in recent months.

Political turmoil has reached the normally peaceful community of Bonduel, leaving elected leaders fighting among themselves and village staff heading out the door.

Police Chief Todd Chaney and Deputy Village Clerk Katrina Schroeder both are stepping down from their jobs, and Village Trustee Shawn Thorne has followed them in vacating his elected position.

All three announced their departures by citing a contentious atmosphere that has developed among the seven elected members of the Bonduel Village Board.

Chaney, who has been police chief for six years, wrote in his June 21 retirement notice that unnamed members of the board had created “a hostile working environment.”

“This has become a travesty, and I choose not to expose myself to these circumstances,” he wrote.

The political upheaval began after a new board was elected in April and after an informal alliance seemed to emerge involving Trustees Joan Kamps, Mary Barney and Margie Qualheim.

Thorne, who has been a veteran of the board, said those three trustees have engaged in personal attacks and have disrupted the village’s normally congenial way of doing business.

Thorne said that although he has seen occasional disagreements before, he has never witnessed so much rancor among colleagues at the Village Hall.

“We have a mess going on here,” he said. “We need the community to step up and help us address this.”

Kamps, Barney and Qualheim were all unavailable for comment.

Qualheim attempted to assure her fellow village officials at a June 20 committee meeting that they should not be taken aback by efforts to scrutinize and improve how the village conducts business.

“Don’t take offense,” she said. “Just keep an open mind and listen.”

Audio recordings of the June 20 meeting and other recent village meetings provide a glimpse at the issues that have contributed to the air of political upheaval.

At a May 10 board meeting, a brief discussion about the village’s code of ethics led to a pointed exchange about personal conflicts of interest in which Village President Sharon Wussow exchanged words with Qualheim, the newest village trustee.

Then, during the June 20 meeting of the public safety committee, Kamps aired questions about the whereabouts of a $1,100 donation she made to the village. Kamps said she left the donation with Schroeder, and that the money later seemed unaccounted for.

The donation issue was quickly resolved, but Schroeder resigned her position as deputy clerk because she felt like her integrity had been called into question. In her July 5 resignation letter, Schroeder wrote that she blamed Kamps, Barney and Qualheim for creating an environment of negativity and hostility at the village.

“It is hard for me to even fathom that adults act in this nature,” she wrote. “It is truly a disgrace to what so many of us want for this village.”

Other issues of disagreement have involved the manner in which Wussow has filled committee appointments, village expenses for employees attending professional conferences, and the procedure for doing background checks on liquor license applicants.

At the same June 20 committee meeting, Kamps and Qualheim questioned the liquor license method and quizzed Chaney about some of his decisions recommending approval or denial of certain applicants. Wussow responded that she felt personally offended at any implication that the village was not following the law. She said she would arrange to have the village’s attorney present the next time trustees gather.

“Everybody has been on pins and needles,” Wussow said at the time. “How can a person not take it personal?”

Thorne submitted his resignation earlier this week, following about 10 years of service during multiple stints on the board. He is in the middle of his current two-year term, with his resignation scheduled to take effect July 20.

In his letter, Thorne noted the recent staff departures and pointed blame at the “disgraceful” conduct of three village trustees.

“I no longer wish to work with these board members,” he added, “as I believe they don’t understand the full ramifications of their actions, and they certainly don’t understand what it means to represent this village.”