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Ashwaubenon tables new officers’ pre-employment contracts

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

ASHWAUBENON – At the urging of a trustee, the village board tabled action March 23 on requiring new public safety officers to sign pre-employment contracts to reimburse the village for expenses related to hiring, should they leave early.

Public Safety Chief Brian Uhl proposed the agreements to recoup some of the costs involved in training and hiring new officers, if they decide they want to leave or their employment is terminated within three or five years.

He said a new officer the village sent through the law enforcement academy resigned without notice while going through field training.

Uhl said the difference between the pre-employment agreements is the one for three years is for someone the village doesn’t have to put through an academy or training, while the five-year agreement is for employees who require training.

The village’s Finance and Personnel Committee agreed March 16 to recommend both repayment agreements for new officers after reviewing agreements from other agencies in Wisconsin.

However, Trustee Steve Kubacki, who previously was Ashwaubenon’s village administrator more than a decade ago, asked the board to table the agreements for a future meeting to have an opportunity to review them with Uhl, Village Manager Joel Gregozeski and Village President Mary Kardoskee.

“This is something new for us, and I just want to address recruitment and some other options that might be out there and available,” Kubacki said. “It appears that most of these agreements are with police operations, not necessarily public safety operations.”

As drafted, the pre-employment agreements would limit the reimbursable amount to $8,000 for three years and $9,999 for five years with the percentage reimbursed decreasing until the three- or five-year period of employment is completed with no reimbursement required for officers leaving after that time.

Kubacki said the reimbursable amounts contained in those agreements “are higher than anything else I’ve seen in the State of Wisconsin at this point in time.”

He said the village needs to save money, such as on overtime, but he didn’t feel comfortable acting on the agreements at this point.

“I’m not opposed to it,” Kubacki said. “But I want to make sure that we do it in the fashion that we should do it.”

Gregozeski said a pre-employment agreement would be a condition of hiring a new officer and would not relate to the public safety union.

“It’s more or less trying for us to protect the investment we have in them,” he said. “If an employee makes it (to) the full term of that agreement, we’re not gaining anything other than the time commitment that employee has made to the village.”

Gregozeski said the village has no pressing need to implement the agreements, because the village just went through the hiring process to replace officers.

“It doesn’t affect any preexisting employees,” he said. “It’s just those that we would look to bring on as qualified applicants.”

Trustee Jay Krueger said he questions what would happen if an officer’s employment ended before the three or five years, and how the village would get money back from that person.

If an officer who leaves early would not pay, Village Attorney Tony Wachewicz said the village could initiate legal action against that person as a breach of contract.

Krueger said he was concerned it could turn into a union issue because of an officer being a union member upon leaving employment with the village.

Gregozeski said the agreements are signed prior to officers joining the union, and upon voluntarily resigning their positions, they would no longer be represented by the union.

“At that point, it becomes discretionary, of course, if the village is going to pursue the repayment under the terms of the agreement,” he said. “There’s no obligation, per se, that the village needs to go and seek repayment. But that employee did sign that prior to officially accepting their position with the village, understanding that that could potentially be an obligation for them.”

If an officer who was employed with Ashwaubenon in good standing for 4 1/2 years decided to take a position in Green Bay or De Pere, Gregozeski said he would likely recommend that person not be required to reimburse the village.

“However, if somebody graduates from the academy and two weeks into field training they decide to resign without any notice, I would suspect that the village board and certainly staff would be more inclined to possibly seek reimbursement for that,” he said.

Kardoskee said the board tabled action on the agreements indefinitely, but village staff will expedite having the meetings requested by Kubacki.

Kubacki said he would be interested in attending a Finance and Personnel Committee meeting to discuss the agreements.

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