By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – An attorney representing Village Manager Allison Swanson has confirmed she is resigning from the position, effective July 8.
Swanson became the village manager in 2011, after having been a city attorney in Green Bay, and is married to an Ashwaubenon public safety officer, Kevin Buckley.
In a statement provided to The Press Times from Kyle Thelen of the Herrling Clark law firm, which previously filed a lawsuit on Swanson’s behalf alleging defamation against the Ashwaubenon Public Safety Officers’ Association (APSOA), he said the union’s “constant unjustified attacks against Mrs. Buckley (Swanson) created such a hostile and uncomfortable workplace that she believed she had no choice but to resign.”
“We want to be clear that Mrs. Buckley’s (Swanson’s) resignation was not because the allegations that the union has made have any merit or truthfulness whatsoever,” Thelen said. “Rather, her resignation is directly related (to the) unbearable work environment that was created by the barrage of unjustified, unnecessary, and unsupported allegations of wrongdoing made by the union.”
The APSOA’s attorney, Aaron Halstead of the Hawks Quindel law firm, said it was Swanson’s choice to leave the position when no one asked her to resign.
“That was her decision of her own free will,” he said.
Halstead said Swanson had another option than resigning when she could have made an effort to make things better between the village and the union.
Swanson’s resignation comes about five months after the APSOA held a news conference Feb. 6 to announce a no-confidence vote in her.
The union issued a press release with a list of complaints about Swanson containing 22 bullet points with what it called a “partial list of just some of the egregious behaviors the association has witnessed.”
Some of the union’s complaints about Swanson resulted in state and federal lawsuits along with labor grievances being filed on behalf of past and present union members.
Swanson filed her own complaint and claimed the union stated “numerous lies” to “imply illegal and unethical conduct by me.”
She accused the union of violating the village’s anti-harassment and whistleblower policy.
In response to the union’s complaints about Swanson, the Ashwaubenon village board met in closed session Feb. 25 and agreed to hire the von Briesen & Roper law firm to conduct an investigation.
Jim Macy of von Briesen & Roper provided the board with two reports, one looking into the APSOA’s list of complaints it released about Swanson and the other when Swanson filed a complaint in response to the union’s announcement and press release.
After the board met in closed session May 7, it directed Village Attorney Tony Wachewicz to draft a statement to announce the outside investigation cleared Swanson of any wrongdoing or unethical conduct.
According to the statement Wachewicz released May 9, the board had “full faith and support in Ms. Swanson” after accepting the reports and their findings.
A copy of the investigative reports obtained in an open records request by The Press Times also indicated Macy did not find the union violated the village’s anti-harassment and whistleblower policy, as was alleged by Swanson.
The lawsuit was filed May 20 in Brown County Circuit Court on Swanson’s behalf, accusing the APSOA, President Eric Paulowski and Secretary Melanie Lovato of defamation.
The suit included citations of the investigative reports, which were sought in open records requests by the union and others, prior to those reports being publicly released, according to an ethics complaint the APSOA filed June 16 about Swanson to the village’s ethics board.
“The village manager’s disclosures reflect a decision to promote her personal interests over those of the village,” the complaint states. “Notably, rather than releasing Attorney Macy’s report regarding her complaint against the Association (and individual Public Safety Department employees named in that complaint), the village manager chose to selectively disclose only one report, in order to advance her personal litigation interests, a clear breach of her duty of loyalty to the village.”
Thelen said “the filing of the ethics complaint was another contributing factor to the hostile work environment the union created for her.”
“We vehemently deny the allegations of wrongdoing contained in the union’s ethics complaint and believe there was no merit to it,” he said.
Halstead said he believes the ethics complaint will be a moot point upon Swanson resigning.
Though Swanson is leaving the position, Thelen said the suit against the union and its two members will proceed.
“Again, we welcome the opportunity to litigate and prove our claims made in this case through the judicial system, rather than in the media,” he said.
Thelen said Swanson will not be commenting on resigning as village manager.
Trustee Ken Bukowski, who was aware of Swanson’s effective resignation date when he was contacted for comment, said she has gotten a “raw deal” involving her dispute with the union.
“She’s been a great, great village manager,” Bukowski said. “I hate to see her go.”