Meeting with City Council also sought
BY KEVIN BONESKE
Rhinelander’s Police and Fire Commission met Thursday morning and discussed how to proceed in filling the city’s vacant police chief position now that its top choice for the job, current Kiel chief of police Dave Funkhouser, decided earlier this week not to accept the job.
Funkhouser, who was selected by commission members March 16, had been one of three finalist for police chief along with Oneida County Sheriff’s Office 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.
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.
With the position yet to be filled, commission members indicated Thursday they favor selecting Lueneburg or Gauthier, rather than beginning the hiring process over, but also want to meet with the City Council or Finance Committee, which they blame for not being able to finalize an offer of employment with Funkhouser.
Rhinelander’s vacant police chief position was posted with a tentative annual salary range of $79,000 to $85,500.
The oral offer made to Funkhouser to become Rhinelander’s chief, said commission chairman Todd McEldowney, was less than what Funkhouser was making in Kiel.
“We pride ourselves in being warm and inviting and welcoming, but we couldn’t take the time to meet with him face-to-face,” McEldowney said. “Instead, it was more of an adversarial process, where we tried to get him for as low a salary as we possibly could, and that’s the professionalism we treated him with.”
Other commission members agreed with McEldowney. For instance, Joe Sturzl said he was disappointed in the “lack of professionalism that was shown in the negotiations” and Sandra Bergman, who asked for a meeting with the Finance Committee or City Council, compared the lack of a finalized employment offer to being in a hole and continuing to dig.
Mayor Dick Johns and alderman Alex Young were both present for the commission’s meeting, which was also attended by Gauthier and Lueneburg as well as several present and past Rhinelander police officers. Johns and Young both indicated they would be interested in a meeting with the commission, for which Johns favored having with the full City Council rather than just the Finance Committee.
McEldowney suggested having the commission meet again to appoint the next police chief and then hold a joint meeting with the City Council, possibly at the council’s next regular monthly meeting May 8. However, no specific meeting dates have yet been set.