Dave Funkhouser decides not to accept position
BY KEVIN BONESKE
After being selected almost a month ago by the Rhinelander Police and Fire Commission as the city’s next police chief, Dave Funkhouser has notified city officials he is no longer interested in accepting the position.
Funkhouser, who has been the city of Kiel’s police chief since 2005, had indicated upon his selection March 16 by the Police and Fire Commission that he had hoped to start as Rhinelander’s chief by early May, but had not yet finalized an offer of employment with the Finance Committee or City Council.
In a letter sent Tuesday to Mayor Dick Johns and also provided to Police and Fire Commission chairman Todd McEldowney, Funkhouser said he is “deeply disappointed in having to make this decision as I was very excited about the chance to work with the team at Rhinelander P.D. and to move my family to your wonderful community.”
“However, since being named by the Rhinelander Police and Finance Commission as their choice for chief of police, it has become clear to me that it would not be in my best personal or professional interest to accept employment with the city of Rhinelander,” Funkhouser further stated. “I wish you all the best in finding someone to fill your open position as your next chief of police. You have an outstanding police department and a beautiful community.”
Funkhouser had been one of three finalist for police chief along with Oneida County Sheriff’s Department captain Lloyd Gauthier and Rhinelander police captain Ron Lueneburg, who has been the city’s interim chief since former police chief Michael Steffes resigned Nov. 1 after more than nine years on the job to begin a position with the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
Gauthier indicated he is still interesting in the police chief’s position. Lueneburg could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
OFFER NOT ACCEPTED
Though the Police and Fire Commission has the authority without City Council approval to select the police chief, it is up to the City Council to approve the salary and benefits the person hired to the position would receive.
The city’s Finance Committee held a special meeting Monday night to discuss/approve an offer of employment for the police chief, but took no action upon reconvening in open session. The item was also on the agenda for the full City Council, which met after the Finance Committee, for possible final approval.
When asked about not finalizing an offer with Funkhouser, Finance Committee chairman Mark Pelletier said Funkhouser was offered salary and benefits within the range for which the position was listed, but that wasn’t acceptable to Funkhouser.
The police chief’s position had been posted with a tentative annual salary range from $79,000 to $85,500.
From a financial standpoint, Pelletier said the offer of employment should not go “above and beyond” the listed salary range and also exceed what the previous chief was being paid. He noted the appropriate level for the police chief’s salary was determined in a wage study put together for the city last year by Carlson Dettmann Consulting.
Both Pelletier and interim city administrator Keith Kost have been critical of the Police and Fire Commission publicly announcing Funkhouser’s selection as police chief before the city could negotiate an employment offer with him.
In a statement released Wednesday, Kost said he is disappointed Funkhouser declined the offer of employment.
“An offer was made to the candidate within that range(of $79,000 to $85,500) with a full benefit and fringe benefit package, including 40 days of paid time off, full Wisconsin Retirement System benefit and moving expenses in addition to health insurance, dental insurance and life insurance coverage,” Kost said. “Although it is clear he was not happy with the initial offer, the candidate twice declined to provide a counteroffer when requested.”
Based on the pay grade and step in which Funkhouser received a salary offer – $38.47 an hour over 2,080 hours for an annual salary of $80.017.60 – Kost said Funkhouser would have had the second-highest paid position within the city of Rhinelander.
Fire chief/building inspector Terry Williams, whose position like the police chief is in the top pay grade, though he is at a higher step, is currently the highest paid city employee at an hourly rate of $41.28 over 2,080 hours for an annual salary of $85,862.40.
COMMISSION TO DECIDE NEXT STEP
The city’s Police and Fire Commission has its next meeting set for Thursday morning. Prior to Funkhouser’s letter being released, the commission included on its agenda, “Discuss the choice of Dave Funkhouser as chief.”
When reached for comment Tuesday afternoon, McEldowney said it will be up the commission members at Thursday’s meeting on how to proceed with selecting a new police chief now that Funkhouser no longer wants to be hired to the position. He noted the five people on the commission could decide to select someone else who has already applied for police chief or start over with the hiring process.
When McEldowney publicly announced Funkhouser’s selection as chief while the three finalists were present March 16, he said, “All three of our finalists would make excellent choices as the next chief of police.”
McEldowney said it is sad Funkhouser won’t become Rhinelander’s police chief, a position Funkhouser looked forward to taking over when the commission selected him.
Regarding an offer of employment not being reached for Funkhouser to start the position, McEldowney said the commission was not involved in any financial negotiations and had no involvement during the interview process in what the salary could be, noting the tentative annual salary range had been listed in the initial job notice.