Oak Creek Embattled Oak Creek Police Chief Russ Caterinicchio and Sgt. Erik Foster tendered their resignations Thursday. The Oak Creek Town Board unanimously accepted the resignations during its regular meeting Thursday night.
Caterinicchio submitted a letter of resignation at 5 p.m. Thursday, one hour after Foster gave his resignation verbally to town Trustee and Police Commissioner Chuck Wisecup. The town's community service officer, Tony VanDeventer, also resigned.
The Town Board convened at 7 p.m. and immediately went into executive session to discuss an undisclosed "personnel issue." After meeting behind closed doors for about 30 minutes, board members emerged and Wisecup moved to accept each of the resignations. None of the departing officers was in attendance.
The resignations seemed to come as a surprise to the standing-room only audience pouring out into the hallway, many of whom were in attendance with the expectation that the board would discuss a proposal developed last week by local business owners. That proposal called for Caterinicchio and Foster's terminations or resignations.
"I think we are all shocked," said Bonfiglio Drug owner David Bonfiglio, who helped organize recent meetings among Oak Creek business owners at the behest of the Town Board.
"We all hoped for this outcome, but we weren't expecting it go that way," Bonfiglio said.
Trustee and Police Commissioner Dave Ege said Caterinicchio and Foster resigned of their own volition.
"It was a surprise to me," Ege said.
Ege also noted that their resignations certainly were a better outcome than termination.
Caterinicchio and Foster had been under fire for what some town residents and business owners say were questionable policing methods and an approach to their jobs that didn't mesh with the community's policing mindset.
At the time of his resignation, Caterinicchio turned over chain of custody materials and the Oak Creek Police Department's evidence vault to Eileen Rossi, its sole remaining officer, and returned all town property, Wisecup said. Foster is expected to do the same today.
Board members did not address replacing the resigning officers, or any procedures or timeframe for doing so. The Town Board has not engaged in any such discussion, Wisecup said.
Rossi and police commissioners Ege and Wisecup are expected to take part in preliminary discussions today to determine how the department will run in the immediate future.
Rossi works part time for the department, between 20 and 32 hours a week, and noted that as a seasonal Routt County resident she typically leaves the state by the end of October.
"I'm going to be meeting with the various leaders to see what they expect of me - and if I'm willing to do it," Rossi said.
Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall and Undersheriff David Bustos attended Thursday's meeting and said they will work with Oak Creek's police commissioners and Rossi to ensure a smooth transition and provide law enforcement coverage of Oak Creek.
"The board cannot guarantee response times or anything like that at this point," Trustee Dave Fisher said.
In light of VanDeventer's resignation, the Town Board tabled its consideration of an abatement bid from Black Hawk-based Mondial Environmental. During the summer, the town directed its community service officer to give notice to property owners in violation of Oak Creek's nuisance ordinance.
Mondial Environmental submitted a bid of $1,250 for the 11 properties not brought into compliance, "to include hauling away any trash or scrap materials, mowing and general restoration of each property to its unabated state," according to the bid.
Although Fisher noted that the bid seemed "an exceptionally good value," the board designated Ege to get more information before the next board meeting. VanDeventer had carried out all previous conversations with Mondial Environmental about the scope of the work.
The board also unanimously renewed the liquor licenses of Black Mountain Tavern and Dinty Moore's Family Restaurant.