Chief, sergeant wanted out

Oak Creek merchants call for overhaul in police department

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If you go

What: Oak Creek Town Board meeting

When: 7 p.m. tonight

Where: Oak Creek Town Hall, 129 Nancy Crawford Blvd.

— A group of Oak Creek business owners is calling for the immediate terminations or resignations of Police Chief Russ Caterinicchio and Sgt. Erik Foster - a suggestion the Oak Creek Town Board will discuss formally at its meeting tonight.

After being directed by the Town Board in August to bring back their suggestions for improving community-police relations in Oak Creek, the business owners determined that they very much want law enforcement in their town, but not with Caterinicchio and Foster.

"In the right circumstances, I feel both of these officers could flourish," Bonfiglio Drug owner David Bonfiglio said. "This just isn't it."

"We are all adamant that we do not want to disband the police department; that is not a solution," added Andy Benjamin, co-owner of Chelsea's Restaurant. "The traffic work Russ (Caterinicchio) has been doing on Main Street, and his involvement up at the school, we feel that is genuine. He does that very, very well. It's a real bummer that some of this other stuff has taken away from that."

Benjamin specifically cited Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman's arrest for driving under the influence - and Caterinicchio's immediate endorsement of Foster's conduct during that arrest - as an example. Many of the business owners were "disturbed" with how the police department handled not only the incident, but the subsequent public outrage, Benjamin said.

"They tanked their credibility with the whole community at large," he said.

About 90 percent of business owners in town signed an agreement asking for the two men's firings or resignations, which was submitted to the Town Board along with roughly 25 citizen statements, Bonfiglio said.

"The bottom line, we felt, is that it's not a good fit. And we haven't seen any indication over 10 months of any attempt to fit into the community policing mindset that a lot of us were asking for," Bonfiglio said.

Bonfiglio noted the group's recommendations are not a "knee-jerk reaction" and that they "agonized" about coming to this consensus.

Caterinicchio said he was unaware of what business owners were proposing Wednesday, and he refused to comment beyond saying he will go along with any decision the Town Board makes on the matter.

Trustees who could be reached for comment Wednesday remained more or less mum about how the Town Board will consider the business owners' suggestions.

"Tomorrow night should be interesting," Trustee Gerry Greenwood said, declining to comment further.

Trustee and police commissioner Chuck Wisecup noted any Town Board action regarding the Oak Creek Police Department will not be based solely on the business owners' demands.

"If anything happens, this won't be the primary reason," Wisecup said. "There've been other issues brewing."

"It's in the board's hands how they handle this. We are just one segment of the community," Bonfiglio said. "We would love to see them go along with our decision, because we think it is best under these circumstances for our town."

In meetings last week, the business owners did not decide on any specific plans about how they will respond to any Town Board decision on the matter, Bonfiglio said.

Abatement contract

The Town Board tonight also will consider bids for abatement work in town. Earlier this summer, OCPD's code enforcement officer, Tony VanDeventer, was directed to issue notices to people in town violating Oak Creek's nuisance ordinance.

Those who did not clean up their property in the specified time will have it cleaned at the town's expense, and a lien will be placed on their property with the county, Town Clerk Karen Halterman said.

Tonight the board also will conduct renewal hearings for the liquor licenses of Black Mountain Tavern and Dinty Moore's Family Restaurant and discuss having an engineer look at a damaged beam on the hockey rink roof in need of repair. The board also will review a change order allowing its sewer project contractor to replace portions of sewer line where spot fixes are not appropriate, Halterman said.

Trustees also will review a purchase agreement for a Wyoming facility by the Municipal Energy Association of Nebraska, of which the town and its electric utility are members. Although it has little direct bearing on Oak Creek, all members of the association are to review such investments.

Comments

Scott Wedel 6 years, 3 months ago

I was there at the meeting where OC business owners considered what should be done.

Cargo's case was barely mentioned, partially because it is still an active case and partially because there are so many other troubling incidents with Chief Russ and Sergeant Erik. Bad personalities for a small town, bad investigative police work in response to incidents experienced by business owners were discussed more than Cargo's case.

Many of the business owners knew details of the various cases at the OC municipal court in which the police lost all five cases. And most of the cases had errors or problems with police procedures. Apparently, there was one case in which the guy got off because the police failed to read him his MIRANDA rights!!!

Inept policing does not protect business owners, but it does drive away customers.

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